Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fuera de carta


Maximo “Maxi” (Javier Cámara) is an openly homosexual chef in a fancy restaurant. His biggest dream is for his restaurant to get a Michelin star. The last thing he expected was for his estranged wife to die leaving him in full custody of two kids he has not seen in many years. Sharing his troubles is his best friend, Maître d’ Alejandra “Alex” (Lola Dueñas) who is desperate to find a suitable partner in life after being hurt so many times by all the guys she has ever dated. Enter Argentinian ex-football player Horacio (Benjamin Vicuña) as the new neighbor and potential boyfriend. An unlikely love triangle is formed when it is revealed that Horacio also likes men.

This could be compared to Elsa & Fred in terms of the laugh out loud factor. Everyone has good comedic timing and the punch lines are very good. The character of Maxi being a loud homosexual is a huge plus. You know how brutally frank and funny they could be all at the same time. The unanimous reaction of critiques though is that the movie offers a very backward view of homosexuality in society.  I do not know what the situation is in Spain, although here in the Philippines I would say that the movie just displays what is observable in society. While tolerance has been improving in the last couple of years, there are still many sectors of society where homosexuality is still frowned upon, especially in sports, for reasons that the character of Horacio already stated in the movie. This is not to say that those sectors dominate the society we live in, but there is no negating their existence, and I think the movie just highlighted that to have an interesting plot.

Another thing I find funny is the use of fairy tales to draw some parallelisms when it comes to the main story. This has been some sort of common trait in a few movies I’ve seen in this festival. Just like in Mil cretinos, the absurdities of some story arcs in fairy tales are explored here through the inquisitive daughter, to whom Maxi reads a story every night. She asks questions such as, “Why did Little Red Riding Hood not recognize the wolf masquerading as her grandmother? We dressed *insert friend’s name here*’s dog yesterday and it still looked like a dog.” Hahaha! Point taken. The same goes with Cinderella. “Why did the prince have to find Cinderella through her shoe, didn’t he see her face?” Let’s face it, kids who act like adults in movies are always successful in making the audience laugh. And then there is the story of the Ugly Duckling which Maxi relates to his relationship with Horacio.

I love Lola Dueñas. She is everywhere! Here she does what she does best, play the wacky girl who gets drunk because of her desperation to find somebody who will love her. There she goes thinking that Horacio is the one, only to find out that he is already in a relationship with her best friend. The revelation scene is hilarious. “I love this cabinet.” HAHAHA!

I don’t think the film stoops so low as to be slapstick. There are funny scenes mainly due to the physicality but most of the comedy is derived from the characters and their witty lines. And then yes you need to have some drama in there. The main point of conflict is the rebellious attitude of the son towards his father for abandoning them, which is not at all unfounded. This is mostly where all the drama is. It is explored now and then and there are moments when there’s an emotional tug, but the movie does not fall into the trap of becoming a formulaic melodrama. Instead, it gives you another comedic jab to finish everything.

The ending is as realistic as it could be. There were tradeoffs, which is what happens in real life most of the time. Filipinos would love this movie. The formula is not something alien to us.

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