[Review in Spanish]

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

(Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios)

This is a comic story about (mis)communication, coincidences, crossed-paths, and the fury of women scorned. The story is set in Madrid, Spain in the late 1980's in the love nest of Pepa (Carmen Maura), an actress and Ivan (Fernando Guillen), her married lover. Pepa comes home to find out that she has been dumped via the technology of the day, an answering machine. She goes on a mission searching for Ivan all over the city and that is where things get really crazy. After Pepa sets her bed on fire, her best friend, Candela (Maria Barranco), comes to tell her that she had the best sex of her life with a man who turned out to be a Shiite terrorist, and that he plans to blow up a plane. However, Pepa is too busy dealing with a prospective couple interested in her apartment, which she plans to sublet, so Candela decides to leave (but not by the door).

Then there is Ivan's wife Lucia (Julieta Serrano), who has just been released from a sanatorium and is bent on making Ivan pay for his indiscretions with Pepa, as well as for sending her to the crazy house and separating her from their son (Antonio Banderas). Lucia was committed about 20 years earlier and seems to have picked up where she left off fashion-wise. Her clothes, her hair, and make-up are still stuck in that time period.

As Pepa searches all over the Spanish capitol for Ivan, she visits a feminist lawyer who she implores to help Candela in her impending legal troubles, but is met with hostility, and Pepa doesn't understand why. When she picks up the phone in the office, she believes that she hears Ivan's voice, but writes it off to the barbiturates that she uses to spike her gazpacho.

It is sadly comical how Pepa and Ivan are constantly missing each other, both in person and on the phone. She continually, however, manages to accidentally run into people who are somehow or another connected to Ivan and the entire fiasco that unfolds in her apartment. The police eventually get involved when they get a tip about Candela's boyfriend's plans and pay a visit to the apartment to get some answers. The ending ties all the subplots together and Pepa finally talks to Ivan and finds and sees the woman who replaced her as Ivan's mistress.

Pedro Almodovar's films are usually twisted, zany, and a bit disconcerting. This is probably one of his best films, along with "All About My Mother". He uses many of the same actors in his films, but this is probably the best use of Maura in any of his films. Pepa is a strong, formidable character that evolves throughout "Women." From first meeting her in the film it appears that she is shallow and one-dimensional, but in the final scenes of the movie, particularly when she finally gets a hold of Ivan, you realize that she is indeed a decent person.

The movie is entirely in Spanish with yellow English subtitles. I have not found that there is a dubbed version of the movie. As a Spanish linguist/translator I found the subtitle translation very well done. This is not the movie to test your retention of high-school Spanish, as the Castilian dialect is spoken rapidly. Even I had trouble keeping up at times.

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: C

Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:

A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV

czarina on the verge

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