The first film by Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children Of Men, HP: Prisoner Of Azkaban), is a multi-layered satire of Mexican culture, and a hilarious lighthearted dark comedy?
Tomas is an ad agent, and ladies man by reputation. He...(read more) 's trying to think of a new slogan for the worst Chille in Mexico, sleeping with his boss, and trying to balance a revolving door of woman, with an interest in a mysterious new neighbor....which is all pretty standard Spanish language sex comedy (at the time this film was financed by the Mexican government the overwhelming majority of Mexican films where the kind of saucy soaps you see on Telemundo apparently)...which is why a little over half way through the film, a jaded ex lover of Tomas', falsifies his AIDS report to make him think he is HIV positive, and then the fun really begins.
It's as well crafted and gorgeously shot as any of Cuaron's other films, and the in-titles used before the film, do not merely recall the french new-wave, but serve as linguistic puns for each section of the film, be they the poem by E. E. Cummings about the color green (used again and again in this film, shoes, rooms, the Aids report),to the Itsy Bitsy Spider(and the crossing the ledge sequence), to Newtons third law of thermodynamics, to the Olympic Slogan, each heading really does say a lot. It's appropriate that the last heading be an actual slogan, which is what Tomas is trying to come up with for most of the film. And in the end, a slogan is what he get's "love is the cure for those sick of life". Like the traditional comedies of old, it even ends with a marriage!
The film is a satire of Mexican soaps, but also the way Mexico sells it's stereotypes,(Tomas's neighbors ditch, two Japanese business associates who don't speak any Spanish with Tomas, to go watch "the new Kurosawa film". Tomas takes them through a montage of traditional Mexican debauchery, Mariachi's, bars, something that looks like shots of Tequilla..?, etc), and let's not forget the scene of the Aztek running epically down the beach (one of the first scenes), only to run into a Conquistador and offer him Gonzalez Beans, as it had all along been a commerical. Or the dream sequence on the plane with Mexican wrestlers, Mariachi's and a host of assorted references.
I can see how some could compare this to Pedro Almodvar, the zany surrealism of "What Have I Done To Deserve This" comes to mind, easy. But even at his best Almodvar was never this laugh out loud funny.
In some ways it's also a coming of age tale, it begins with a sex scene (like Y Tu Mama Tambien), where Tomas claims he has no condoms, though a few moments later we see that he has plenty(not that he ever uses them, this scene plays out more than once). At the end he is buying a pack for himself, just as his friend the gynecologist, so envious that Tomas can indulge in the desires he represses, by the end of the film, is able to see his relationships in a new light as well.
That being said, this was really, really, funny, clever, and just a pleasure to watch.
"No ma'm you can't get AIDS through the phone!"