Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2004 10:31 pm 
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Mamma likes girls, oh oh

My Mother Likes Women (A mi madre le gustan las mujeres) is a romantic comedy lacking the genius of Almodóvar but showing his influence in the madcap passions of the mostly female principals – the mother, Sofía (Rosa Maria Sardà), a pianist; her new young Czech pianist girlfriend or novia, Eliska (Eliska Sirová); and her three daughters, who all wind up with boyfriends in the course of their unsuccessful attempt to separate Eliska from mamá. Eliska does leave mamá, on her own, and returns to Prague (whence a brief musical travelogue à la Bollywood), and she leaves, moreover, with mamá’s money, but she pays it back and returns to mamá, at the daughters’ own prompting, once they realize how selfish they were being.

It’s all about gently shocking bourgeois sensibilities, and it ends in the happy multiple couplings of classic comedy. The opening scene is only titillating if you’re amused by the daughters’ variously nervous or hysterical responses to the news that the new “love” their mother has found is a girl. We’re given an instant set of “mujeres al borde di un ataque di nervios” -- only “women on the verge of a nervous breakdown” may not be an accurate translation of Almodóvar’s title: in Spain an “attaque de nervios” seems to be more like a hissy fit. Amusement at female discomfort is mingled with sympathy for a “situation” that is really, in any conventional family, pretty hard to swallow. Most of the action focuses not on the happy, if temporarily separated, female couple, but on daughters Elvira (Leonor Watling), Jimena (Maria Pujailte) and Sol (Silvia Abascal), and primarily on the most neurotic of the three, Elivira.

After several false starts due to self-sabotage, Elvira lands an appealingly slim and famous writer of fat novels. Sol, the rock singer daughter, who performs an embarrassing song exposing her mother’s proclivities, lands Eliska’s brother. The third, married daughter, Jimena, gets divorced from her unsympathetic husband and hooks up with a garden entrepreneur whose company name is “Plántate,” a moniker that means “plant yourself,” which I guess they all do, on the screen anyway. Jimena and Señor Plántate meet by the crude, but handy, method of their vehicles colliding in a Madrid street.

It would be tempting to say this whole movie is a car crash. But that would be unfair: however these two lady directors’ cinematic efforts must suffer by comparison with the increasingly brilliant and surreally beautiful creations of Pedro Almodóvar, its tumultuous plot only occasionally falters. Ines París and Daniela Fejerman know something about neurotic women, and My Mother Likes Women entertains so long as you can keep up an interest in its largely contrived series of episodes. It has a pleasing cast, a sense of motion, and the bonus of some nice, not too schmaltzy classical piano music. But despite the hip premise of late-blooming maternal lesbianism, it’s really utterly conventional and barely skin deep.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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