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Colloquially-told story of a few days in the life of Marieta, who's saving money for the last operation in her change from man to woman. She works as a prostitute in Madrid and longs for a legitimate job. Whenever she builds up her savings, her housemate and best friend Tomás finds ways to spend, lose, or cost her those funds. She meets Raúl, whom she likes and who likes her; the trouble is he also likes that part of her she wants removed. If that's not enough, she also has narcolepsy, and when she conks out, she dreams of musical-theater numbers in which she's the singing and dancing star. Are these dreams always going to be 20 centimeters out of reach?Written by
A Colorful, Zesty Extravaganza with Heart from Ramón Salazar
Writer/actor/director Ramón Salazar ('Amnèsia', 'Piedras') is becoming a formidable presence on the Spanish cinema scene. He takes risks, he knows he takes them, and he makes them turn out in his favor. '20 Centimeters' is a mix of a story that is part hilarious musical comedy and part sensitive character portrayal of people who live just outside the edge of what is cruelly called 'normal': the mix makes for a jolly fluffy cake that smacks of Salazar's predecessors Almodóvar and Fellini.
Marieta (the enormously talented Mónica Cervera) is a work in progress: she dresses as a woman, has breast implants, is on painful steroid injections, but still retains the 20 centimeter remnant that prevents her from becoming the totally feminine woman she desires. She has a heart of gold, works the streets as a prostitute with special gifts to earn money for her transgender surgery. But at home she shares an apartment with a dwarf Tomás (the very handsome and talented Miguel O'Dogherty) who squanders Marieta's money on ticket scams that don't work, cares for her friend Berta's (Concha Galán) son, and provides emotional support to her fellow sex workers. She has a major problem: she has narcolepsy and falls asleep for several hours at a time in the most inappropriate places (!) and during these sleep periods dreams of Broadway musical numbers occur in which she is the singing (in Spanish, French and English) and dancing star with a cast of hundreds in the wildest of costumes! Marieta yearns for love and when she notices on Raul (the very hunky and talented Pablo Puyol) she feels she is in love, especially when Raul returns her attention, takes her home to meet his rather low class gross parents and family, and most importantly physically falls in love with her - AND her 20 centimeter unwanted obstruction to happiness. How Marieta comes to grips with her focal surgical dream versus her chance for love is the tender way the film concludes.
Mónica Cervera carries this very difficult role extremely well, not only allowing us to see the inner suffering being she truly is but also popping the cork off the champagne bottle of musical production numbers that pepper this fun movie. The cast is uniformly fine (Pilar Bardem, the mother of superstar Javier Bardem, has a fine little cameo role) and the direction show that Ramón Salazar has tight reins on his talent. This is a film that is bawdy fun without ever spilling over into the realm of bad taste. Watching it is a toe-tapping good time! Grady Harp
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