Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cousinhood (orig. Primos) [2011]

MPAA (unrated but probably would be rated R)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -

Cousinhood (orig. Primos), written and directed by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo is a happy-go-lucky if certainly irreverent and definitely morally questionable (by both U.S. and U.S. Catholic standards) comedy from Spain that played recently at the 15th Annual European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Sickel Film Center in Chicago, IL.

Still even if irreverent/crude at times, the film is not without value to a American viewer (obviously the version I saw was subtitled) and many, especially the young who speak Spanish would find themselves rolling over laughing.  The film reminds me of a fair number of Italian similarly light romcoms that I saw when I was studying in Rome in the seminary in the 1990s.  Finally  Cousinhood's (orig. Primos) very _light_ humor appears to me typical of the Spanish young adult humor that I've encountered over the years both through relatives and the various Servites that I'm met from Spain.

For an American viewer to get an idea of the irreverent / morally questionable humor present in the film, I'd suggest thinking of Animal House [1978] which while also obviously morally questionable in its humor, I'd _also_ recommend to non-American young adults as a prime example of, indeed, emblematic of _white_ American youth culture humor.  Yes, it's irreverent, yes it's morally questionable, yes it's often stupid, but ... a film like this still can be really, really funny (especially if it's understood to be intended to be that way).

So what's Cousinhood (orig. Primos) about?  It's about three male cousins in their late-20s.  The movie begins with one of them, Diego (played by Quim Gutiérrez), teary eyed, in a tux clearly dressed for a wedding addressing apparently an assembled group of guests first thanking them for coming-out and then continuing to explain:  About a month ago, in preparation for the wedding, though having lived together for some time, he and his fiance decided that they abstain from sexual activity until the wedding night -- in mentioning this, his voice clearly increases in intensity even as he continues crying -- in hopes of having a "really _great_ wedding night."

Anyway, three weeks into this period of waiting, he just couldn't stand it.  But reaching out to caress her cheek, she turned away and started to cry.  Getting a hold of himself, retracting his hand and quickly apologizing: "I know, I know, I'll hold out too, I'll hold out too," he didn't realize initially that (of course) that was _not_ the reason why she was crying.  Instead, she told him that she's not sure that she loved him anymore and thought that they should just cancel the wedding.  "What could I do?  She was crying more than I was," he explains.  So both crying, they decided to cancel the wedding and that "she'd tell her guests and he tell mine."  He finishes his words adding: "Obviously, it didn't turn out the way I thought."  The camera draws back and we see that he's speaking inside a church, half of which is filled (the half with his guests) and half of which (his bride's half) is empty ... "Now please thank you for coming but you can go home now.  I need some time alone ..." and sits himself down, hands over his face, on the floor beside the altar.

The film resumes with the Church empty except for two others, his cousins (his "primos").  There's Julián (played by Raul Arévalo) who's kind of the leader of three, and José Miguel (played by Adrián Lastra) who had also been a strong formidable sort of a guy (with "balls of Spartacus..."). But he came back from "serving in Afghanistan" with a glass eye and nerves so shot that he's been reduced to a pill-popping basket case.

Trying to cheer up Diego, Julián asks Diego to think of any girl that he may a shot with to get him quite literally off of the floor and (as we would say in the United States) "back into the saddle" again...  The first woman that comes to Diego's mind is Martina with whom he had his first sexual experience ... way back when he was 17 back in the sea-side town that the three primos and their families used to go to in the summertime when they were growing up.

Okay, it was a real long shot.  But at least the very idea of Martina of "way long ago..." gets Diego on his feet again.  So the three jump into a car and head off to the town that they used to spend their summers growing up in hopes that they might still run into this young woman there.  Much ensues...

Among that which ensues is that, of course, they run into Martina (played by Irma Cuesta).  She's now a drop dead gorgeous single mom with an .. (is it 8 or 9 year old?) son named Dani (played by Marcos Ruiz).  He seems kinda big for 8...  When they run into her, she's amiable, feels kinda sorry for Diego and his breakup, but makes it clear that she's quite happy being single raising her 8-9 year old son in peace.

One of the funniest (if very very stupid) scenes that I've probably ever seen on film follows as the three "primos" discuss their recollections of what Diego had told them "back then" about his first sexual experience with Martina 10 years ago.  Diego insists that he used a condom, "You know, the one that I had carried around that whole year in my wallet."  As they recall how he had gotten that condom, they remember that it had been made in a country that (fairly or unfairly...) immediately makes one wonder about its quality assurance practices...  "But you told me that there was a hole in it" says José Miguel." "No there wasn't."  "Or was it a tear? Yes, there was a tear because that's why you said that it fell off at one point."  "No it was fine, or yes, I 'fixed it'"  Finally, since he really had only that one condom ... he remembered that "used it a second time" (ick, even if  "creative" as only a clueless and horny 17 year-old would be "quick-thinking"/"creative" in a moment like that ...

All this becomes an absolutely hilarious exposition of all the things that could possibly go wrong when using a condom and becomes an entry way for someone like me to remind young folks why the Church (as a good mom...) tries to teach her children that one really shouldn't get involved with a person "in such a way" unless the two are both willing and able to accept the consequences of getting involved "in such a way." 

Anyway, Martina has this amiable if somewhat hypochondriac kid who's of a suspicious age ...

Various other things happen as well.  Diego's ex-fiance finds out where he is and comes, teary-eyed looking for him.

Julián in the meantime runs into an older man nicknamed Bacci (played by Antonio de la Torre) who used to run a video store in the town when the primos and their families used to come there.  The video business had since gone down hill and he became the village drunk.  On the other hand, his once precocious little daughter had grown-up (and is disappointed with her dad).  Some fixing needs to take place there as well...

All in all, the movie is very light, often rather crude and more or less obviously morally problematic but always with a twinkle in one's eye.  In the end of course everything gets resolved, and (of course) more or less satisfactorily.

Parents note that there is definite nudity in the film.  Remember that if nothing else, the film takes place in a Spanish (hence European ...) seaside resort during the summer.  So we see a lot more of Martina than the average American would initially expect (though Martina as I noted above, looks really, really fine...).  And it's all done then in a typically European or even typically post-Franco Spanish sort of way, with a mix of matter-of-factness and humor: "Hey, what ya lookin' at?   Haven't ya seen plenty of these before...?"

So I would probably tell folks to keep the young ones and even young teens away.  The film is more for young adults / 20-somethings anyway.  But then I do think that this film would be good for American adults and especially young adults to see because Primos (Cousinhood) would give an American adult a lighthearted if sometimes somewhat morally questionable window into a very different way of life and would definitely help an American appreciate why a European would be happy as pie to be European (and here specifically a Spaniard would be happy to be a Spaniard). There is a lightheartedness that pervades this film that is endearing.


I've found it often good in reviewing films like this to look-up what's being said of the film in the home country where it was produced.  So I would recommend to readers here to take a look at some of the external reviews of this film listed in the IMDb database noting that one can always run Spanish language webpages through to get at least a sense translation.

I also found an very good Spanish language movie review site Pantala90 operated by the media office of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Spain.  Alas, I could not find a review of this film Primos (Cousinhood) there.  However, a lot of the popular American films that I've reviewed on the blog are reviewed there as well and the reviews that I read were quite impressive.

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