Sunday, February 9, 2014

775. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios/Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Running Time: 89 minutes
Directed By: Pedro Almodovar
Written By: Pedro Almodovar
Main Cast: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, Rossy de Palma, Maria Barranco
Click here to view the trailer


Moving right along, we come to the 797th film watched and I just can't believe that with the watching of just four more movies, I'll only have 200 remaining. It seems like only yesterday...but this is neither the time, nor the place to get into that spiel. On with the review...

This is the third Almodovar film I've seen and after loving both "Talk to Her" and "All About My Mother", I was really looking forward to this one. We begin with by meeting Ivan, a voiceover actor, who, upon the film's opening, calls his lover Pepa (Maura) and leaves her a message telling her that he's going to be leaving town and he'd like her to pack him a bag. He tells her he loves her and spouts a bunch of sweet nothings, but you can tell he's not being genuine. Then we meet Pepa, who is indeed on the verge of losing her mind, as she wants to see Ivan, find out where he's going and just talk to him. She searches high and low for him, but keeps missing him. In her frustration, she re-records her answering machine message as a direct message to him, telling him to leave a message telling her where he is and when they can see one another. It turns out, that Ivan is stepping out on Pepa and heading to Stockholm, on a vacation with his new lover, Paulina. Meanwhile, Ivan's wife has recently been released from the mental hospital, having been sent there by her infidel husband and Ivan's son, Carlos (Banderas) is trying to protect her from him, while also trying to maintain his own relationship with Marisa (de Palma). Also, there's Pepa's friend, Candela (Barranco), who comes calling for Pepa's help when she has a night of passion with a Shiite terrorist and is afraid that the cops might be after her. it turns out that the Shiite terrorists are plotting a hijack attempt...on the plane that Ivan and Paulina will be taking to Stockholm.

THE BOOK tries to downplay the farcial/screwball aspects of this film, but that's what it is, plan & simple and I loved nearly every minute of it! Sure, it's also an Almodovar film, which means it also has unique, gorgeous cinematography; top notch writing/directing, fantastic dialogue and a story that not only serves the purposes of hilarity, but is also quality stuff. I may not have liked it as much as "All About My Mother" and I definitely didn't like it as much as "Talk to Her", but it's an early work from Almodovar and it's still really, really good. However, because it's what I do, I must do a little bit of nitpicking.

One thing I wish they'd done was do something more with the idea that Pepa and Ivan were voiceover actors. Wouldn't it have been great to film a scene where Pepa and Ivan were having a conversation with each other, expressing their own feelings, while the audience saw it as, say Sterling Hayden talking to Joan Crawford? It seemed like a very Almodovar movie to film a scene like that and as soon as I saw that the two were voiceover actors, I thought immediately that there'd be a scene like that, but I was wrong. They hint at it early on, while Ivan is doing voiceover work on "Johnny Guitar", but it never really pans out. Perhaps it's something Almodovar himself even thought of and maybe even filmed, but it got cut - who knows. I'd also do some nitpicking on the writing. Granted, I just said in the above paragraph that the writing was brilliant, however, this was pretty run of the mill, screwball type stuff. Sure, the writing IS brilliant and I loved all the coincidental/mistaken identity/farce stuff, but I think I expected just a little more intricacy from Almodovar.

But, those are just nitpicky things and really, I'm fine with the film just the way it was. Apparently there was a Broadway show of this too, but it ended in early 2011. I bet that was a lot of fun and I'd have loved to experience that. I have to say though, without the vivacious Carmen Maura, they were missing a lot of the magic of the story. With a little research, I find that Maura was actually Almodovar's muse for many years and it's not hard to see why. He made her look brilliant and she was spectacular enough on her own. I have to say, I really need to see the rest of Almodovar's filmography now, because I loved these three so much, it makes me wonder how many more gems are hiding throughout his body of work. Many, I'm sure.

RATING: 8/10  Nice to see a movie hit an '8' and it's just another, last minute movie to consider, heading into the making of the TOP 20, in a few days.


February 9, 2014  5:10pm

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