Year:  2021

Director:  Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat

Rated:  M

Release:  July 21, 2022

Distributor: Madman

Running time: 114 minutes

Worth: $13.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez, José Luis Gómez, Irene Escolar

The scenario is ripe for lampooning, but whether the joke sustains itself for a nearly two hour running time is another matter.

Everyone knows that filmmaking is a bit nuts, so the people who embark on this enterprise must be a little nuts too, right? That is the basic premise behind this oddball comedy from Spain/Argentina. The extent to which it translates into a successful film-about-a-film is the big question.

Official Competition has two directors, which itself could be a recipe for creative differences, but the main creative differences on display here drive the plot, along with the friendly rivalry between Argentinian and Spanish culture. After all, they are, as Winston Churchill once said in another context, two nations divided by a common language.

The premise is simple, and the film does not require any elaborate set ups. It is all filmed in a nondescript ultra-modern building. Basically, there is a film to be made by much feted but eccentric director Lola Cuervas (Penelope Cruz giving it her all with a giant redhead hairdo). She is a parody of every self-assured, self-obsessed director of art movies (think Lars Von Trier crossed with Stanley Kubrick). She refuses to say what her film is really about. All she knows is that she must cast two big names for what is effectively a two-hander.

Enter the mismatched pair of actors who have to engage with every quirky and absurd bonding exercise that Lola puts to them. Firstly, there is Ivan (Oscar Martinez), a respected Argentinian screen actor who prides himself on putting the film first and his ego second. He’s a direct contrast to the other player, Felix (Antonio Banderas), an egomaniac who has had his head turned by making it big in Hollywood (cue sly jokes, given that both Banderas and Cruz have broken through to precisely this part of the film world). His obsession with what he thinks of as method acting adds further tension to every scene he rehearses with the increasingly angry Jose.

All of this is quite fun if you can muster as much interest in the mechanics of filmmaking as the cast do. To be fair, there are great absurd touches, and the script is tight. There are also a couple of memorable set pieces, such as when the queer Lola demonstrates to her two leading men how to do a proper onscreen kiss. That sequence is laugh out loud.

Alas, the film does not maintain that level of comedy. The spikiness and narcissism is there in spades, but that too can be wearing. The scenario is ripe for lampooning, but whether the joke sustains itself for a nearly two hour running time is another matter. Perhaps they should have discussed the running time more seriously in the early script meetings.


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