Nora (Ludwika Paleta) aims a pistol at her husband, asking him “how many times”. Aarón (Raúl Méndez) responds with “many”, which doesn’t help much in calming her down. Next door, has-been football player Félix (Luis Ernesto Franco) wallows in depression. He cocks his gun and points it at his head. Moments later, two gun shots are heard echoing throughout the building. Eight months prior to the incident, young couple Lucas (Luis Gerardo Méndez) and Julia (Zuria Vega) welcome their new neighbor. He is immediately smitten with him and is eager to prove that maybe he is gay too. She warns him not to be so obvious, given how he’s not out of the closet just yet. In fact, they just married each other for convenience, a way for him to evade rumors and for her to pursue her singing aspirations, which her parents frown upon. The couple next door bicker nonstop about everything from her being too dependent on prescription drugs and him lacking the intimacy that they used to enjoy. When the new neighbor invites everyone to his place for dinner, their individual issues begin to surface, forming an intricate web of complications among the five of them.
It’s not so difficult to imagine the material as a theater piece. In fact, there was a theatrical version a few years prior to the release of the movie, and you can find some video clips on YouTube with some of the actors playing the same roles. I’d like to see the onstage version now more than ever. The film is hilarious on its own, but the more intimate setting the stage provides will surely transform it into one hell of a riot.
The screenplay involves a lot of lengthy and mischievous banter, which is perhaps simply representative of the narrative’s theater origins. The mannerisms employed by some of the actors also qualify as theatrical, particularly those of Méndez and Paleta. It’s not a coincidence that the two of them are also the ones to steal the show from time to time: the former for being the passive-aggressive homosexual; and the latter due to her perpetually neurotic state because of her anti-depressants. Vega and the other Méndez are not to be outdone, although they suffer from the rather generic personalities that limit their characters somehow, while Franco serves more as an eye candy as well as a plot device to move the story forward.
The dilemmas that they face are not that hard to relate to. You have the overachiever sidetracked by life and now has no clue how to go on with it. Franco does a convincing job in letting that frustration transcend the screen. It is also easier to empathize with his dilemma because you only have to substitute being a football star with your own career, making it to the top only to fall all the way back down dodging a curveball coming out of nowhere. The feeling of helplessness and sudden loss of purpose prove to be too stressful and paralyzing that most people just end up doing something stupid.
If you are married, then perhaps you can identify more with either couple. Nora is the bored wife that turns to prescription drugs believing it would keep her sanity intact when it is quite obvious that it wouldn’t. And then Aarón, of course, is the cheater of a husband, a profile many married couples are already familiar with. Lucas and Julia are more in between. They can be an example to newlyweds trying to figure things out when it comes to adulting, or you can just take each individual’s case separately as a specimen for the quarter life crisis that people in their late 20’s and early 30’s usually go through.
There have been some criticisms branding the film as a desperate Almodóvar feature wannabe. To some extent, that is not a very nasty observation. His movies can be hilarious yet remain thoroughly grounded in reality. This one also has those features and uses them to its benefit. Being an ensemble piece, it’s really important to have good rapport among the actors because they all share many scenes with one another. That bond is not just present, it is felt, which is a good thing because it contributes a lot to a semblance of cohesion that brings everything together.