This Spanish epic film is like the most lavish Univision soap opera ever staged; but it's shot with the grave tone of serious art house drama, as if to bleed the fun right out of it. Though handsome and intensely acted, there's absolutely nothing interesting happening under the sudsy surface.
Ignacio and Zoe are an impossibly attractive yuppie couple living an affection-starved sham of a marriage in a swanky enclave of Mexico City. To hammer home the whole "people in glass houses" motif, their home is a modernist cube of glass and concrete slabs, about as warm and homey as an ice sculpture. When she's not counting calories or the 20 grapes she has for breakfast every morning, Zoe pines for children, even though Ignacio is a comatose lump in businessman's clothing who only makes love on Saturdays. Much more responsive to her charms is roguish brother-in-law Gonzalo, a shallow, amoral, sexually charged painter with a closet full of repressed anger and resentment toward his brother. It doesn't take long for Zoe and Gonzalo to start doing the horizontal rumba whenever possible, regardless of the consequences. She never seems to doubt his motives or even consider his girlfriend, or what this will mean to her cushy lifestyle. She entertains a moment of doubt, but her stereotypical gay best buddy dismisses any nagging guilt by proclaiming that Gonzo is one fiery muchacho, and that he'd gladly jump his hunky slacker bones in a heartbeat.
Though the plot is stuck on slow boil, tension begins to mount (all sorts of things get tossed into the ritzy indoor-outdoor pool for dramatic effect). The script consists of line after line of vacuous dialogue being mouthed by characters who are virtually impossible to like. These people are so under-drawn and shallow that Ignacio's habit of getting his back waxed passes for a key bit of character development. Things are briefly perked up by some gratuitous nudity, though director Ricardo de Montreuil can't even get that right, since most of the lovemaking results in an indiscriminate tangle of elbows and knees. At times, the movie seems to display thriller tendencies, and you begin rooting for somebody to get stabbed with an icepick or hit over the head with something expensive. Instead, you get some weak shoving matches and heated arguments involving dirty words they never taught you in Spanish class. By the time all the juicy revelations about sex, betrayal, homosexuality and abuse are laid out on the table, you've either seen it all coming, or wonder what the fuss was about to begin with.
In Spanish with English subtitles. Showing at the AMC Star Fairlane, 18900 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-240-6389.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].