After two ‘smaller’ independent films, my third ¡Viva! title is a more mainstream comedy drama. I’ve again chosen to go with the direct translation of the Spanish title into English, since the ‘given’ English title doesn’t make much sense. This is a familiar narrative, probably most recognisable as referencing films such as The Odd Couple (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, 1968), but really any narrative in which seemingly disparate characters are thrown together and must find a modus operandi of some kind. The setting is Sevilla and an oldish apartment block in a now desirable part of the city. Sara (Juana Acosta) is senior manager in an insurance company, an attractive but rather serious and stressed woman on the brink of 40. She is being shown around an apartment by Óscar (Carlos Areces) a seemingly not very competent estate agent. The apartment is going at half the usual price and eventually the reason for this unusual sale becomes clear. There is an ‘inconvenience’ – the current owner must be allowed to stay on until she dies. Lola (Kiti Mánver) is in her mid 70s with a history of heart problems and she smokes, drinks and eats too many sweet and fatty foods. Óscar gaily announces that she won’t last long and refers to her as an ‘inconvenience’. The fact that Sara rebukes him suggests that perhaps she isn’t quite as cold as she first appears.
This is a quite glossy and beautifully-presented ‘Scope comedy that offers a familiar story in an attractive city. It is certainly funny and and sometimes quite moving. It’s not giving too much away to note that the two women are both lonely and for not dissimilar reasons. They will initially be at loggerheads but will also each grudgingly admire the other at times. Óscar provides a kind of running joke by popping up at regular intervals in various service jobs, none of which he can hold down for long. His incompetence is something the two women can agree about. In terms of timing and performance it is perhaps worth noting that Carlos Areces and Kiti Mánver are both alumni of Almodóvar productions. Juana Acosta is well cast as the business woman with her own problems beneath a polished veneer. Director Bernabé Rico is making his feature film début after several shorts and a decade of producer credits. Cinematographer Rita Noriega is also a features debutant. The script is by the director and Juan Carlos Rubio (based on his own theatre play) and the music is by Julio Awad.
I did find the film entertaining and I enjoyed the performances and the presentation, but I think that the relationship between the two central characters could be explored further, including their back stories. The basic premise (about a half-price apartment that Sara sees as a sound investment) refers to a real social issue in Spain – the rising cost of housing. This and Sara’s lack of a work-life balance, which means that she hasn’t yet decided whether she wants to have a child, point the way towards a richer social comedy that might have more resonance while remaining a mainstream entertainment. The dramatic element might be a little more developed too. El inconveniente is showing again at ¡Viva! on Saturday August 14th at 18.00 and Friday 20th August at 20.40. It would make a good weekend ‘fun film’. This trailer (no English subs) gives a sense of the rapid-fire dialogue: