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Antonio de la Torre,
At first glance, Mica seems a perfectly normal boy. But first glances can often be deceiving... For one, Mica's house is now a museum honouring Guillermo Garibai, the legendary Mexican crooner. Mica spends most of his time there, giving guided tours to aging Garibai fans. But stranger still, Mica smells. He smells like fish. Numerous doctors, his life-long therapist and even his own parents are at a loss. No one wants to be Mica's friend. Girls won't talk to him. His life appears pointless, uneventful, doomed. That is, until Laura walks into it. Written by
I saw this movie at the Miami International Film Festival. From the cast and festival description I thought it was going to be a quirky comedy, and it seemed to have all the right ingredients: a misfit boy with a disease that makes him smell like fish (Douglas Smith), a romantic interest (Zoe Kravitz), an over-the-top Mexican singer from the 70s with all his kitschy extravaganza, and a weird museum house as backdrop. But somehow the film never manages to be anything but cute.
I can't really put my finger on what went wrong. I heard some people during the screening comment that Douglas Smith was not the right actor for the part, nor Zoe Kravitz. That they should have gone with actors that were not so "pretty" and more in the line of Dan McKellar (who delivers a great performance that somehow doesn't fall apart even though his presence is minimal). But I thought Smith showed a lot of potential. He just was very on and off tone depending on the scene, or sometimes even within a scene. Sometimes coming off very natural in his "fed up with it all", sarcastic and exasperated tone (like the hospital scene or the scene when the man from the singer's fan club representative visits him for the second time), other times seeming a bit too blasé or rigid. It seems to me more of a directing problem than anything, but that's just a hunch and maybe I'm influenced by knowing this is a first-time director.
Zoe Kravitz delivers a very natural performance and seems pretty consistent, but her character does not make much sense. You get the sense that a lot of the film ended up on the cutting room floor, or else the script failed at exploiting some marvelous opportunities. For example, there is the briefest of hints that her character is allergic to flowers. Could it be that is why she doesn't notice Micah's fish smell? There should be some comedic irony going on here that just isn't happening. You never quite understand if she can smell him or not, nor do you feel any tension about her finding out about his disease.
I felt the movie could have been a little longer in order to give more opportunity for the plot to develop. Something just doesn't add up. There are some great lines in the movie and it should have been very funny, but it just wasn't. The fan club representative character was great, but somehow he gets put aside. The main character's disease could have provided ample opportunity for comedy but it's just not there. There are only brief, isolated attempts. Somehow it seems they just emphasized the sappy romance instead of allowing the obviously quirky elements that are there to breathe and build on each other. And things happen too quickly. The mother leaves the father too quickly, the kid grows up too quickly (though the actors chosen for the kids are completely uninteresting), the mother dies too quickly (and randomly), the boy gets the girl too quickly, and then loses her too quickly.
On the plus side, the music is, for the most part, very excellent. The composer from The Triplets of Belleville is surely responsible (Benoit Charest). The tone is just right for most of the scenes and it makes it even more upsetting that the film doesn't deliver plot-wise. (There are just a few parts of the score where it jars you right out of liking the film--a witch doctor scene, and a couple of other too romantic ones that just don't have the same irony that the rest of the score excels at.)
The songs performed by the Mexican singer are perfect, too, even though the musical ending seemed a bit too forced. You get the sense they didn't know how to end the movie and opted for a sort of over the top random effect but fell short.
I don't usually write reviews, but this movie left me frustrated enough that I had to comment. I was left with comedy blue balls! Still, there is enough here that I would be curious to see something from Cal y Mayor again... maybe once she has a bit more experience under her belt.
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