Tuesday, October 13, 2009

La Mujer de mi Hermano (2005)

This easy-on-the-eye feature based on the book by Peruvian novelist Jaime Bayly, is a bit of an oddity really.

It could easily have been titled "There are four people in this marriage..." Husband, wife, husband's brother and wife's gay best friend. (And I suppose you could add the priest and the mother-in-law!)

Husband and wife are childless; his fault we learn. For not only is Ignacio sterile he insists on having sex only on Saturdays. He and Zoe inhabit a house which screams repressed homosexuality, though at first it's unclear whether we are to blame the dueño or the director for this nudge nudge wink wink location.

We sympathise with Zoe largely because she is stylish and beautiful. Put a plainer woman in the same role and the tone would be radically altered. Other than her out-of-the-closet friend Bruno she has what she feels is a soul mate in the person of Igancio's slightly sociopathic and Bohemian brother Gonzalo, a painter and all-round gorro.

Ignacio loves Zoe but his interests appear to lie elsewhere, so we know that the neglected wife is going to end up in the sack with the less responsible sybling, and will of course end up pregnant to boot.

The trouble is that the deeper and darker moral ambiguity in this tale is ultimately only hinted at, while the emotional intensity of it all is strangely muted. We end up with what feels like one of those made-for-TV/based on a true story-type conclusions which seems to pack a rather simplistic message. Zoe and Ignacio have reached a new open and honest plateau in their marriage, having in effect gone about adoption the hard way and fessed up to their need for extra-curricular activities. Meanwhile the padre novelero (played by Chilean pop star Beto Cuevas) and selfish Gonzalo will continue to believe that a higher deception has been committed.

Other than that, what is the moral of the tale here? Don't trust a woman who has a gay best friend or a man who wears two pairs of socks?

There's one more significant problem here. The central trio, all supposed to be Mexican, are played by a Peruvian, a Colombian and an Uruguasha. In this respect Manolo 's Gonzalo is the most grating, because his contributions to the dialogue seem to have been penned by someone who has just completed Habla Mexicano...for dummies.

Indeed, I think I myself could knock up an online Mexispeak generator which would randomly emit phrases in a more coherent and convincing way than the painter does in this film: "La neta buey...pinche putito...este vestido es bien chido...ayyyy cabrón...no maaaames..." etc.

Oddly enough the title of Bayly's novel suggests that the story was originally recounted by Gonzalo. On film Zoe's dilemmas are most obviously at the forefront, but the situation is rather jarringly presented as everyone's and no-one's to solve, while retaining some of the baked-in homophobia and misogynism that would have had to suffuse a first-person narrative from the perspective of the brother.

Grade: B (+)

1 comment:

scott said...

We've seen this and about 20 other very similar South American films in the past year or so...netflix is full of them. Often they seem like R-rated telenovelas...not necessarily a bad way to kill 90 minutes, but they're as light as air and very forgettable.