Monday, March 9, 2015

A la Mala [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*

ChicagoTribune (R. Moore) review
CinePremiere (M. Salinas) review* (A. Ruiz Villanueva) review* (G. Espinosa Gaubeca) review* coverage
Telemundo coverage*
Univision coverage* coverage*

A la Mala [2015] [IMDb] [FAes]*(directed by Pedro Pablo Ibarra [IMDb] [FAes]* screenplay by Issa López [IMDb] [FAes]* and Ari Rosen [IMDb] [FAes]*) is a fun Spanish language (English subtitled) Mexican romantic comedy of a "kinder gentler" / "more family friendly" Pretty Woman [1990] vein.  (The language, if one knows Spanish, is significantly cruder than the English subtitles would indicate. However, the central protagonist Maria Laura, "Mala" for short (played magnificently by Aislinn Derbez [IMDb] [FAes]*), was _not_  a "hooker" (though at various times in the film, she'd come pretty darn close), while let's face it, that's exactly what Julia Robert's character in Pretty Woman [1990] began that story as).

So what then was "Mala" (and yes, part of the humor in the film was that "Mala" in Spanish means "The Evil One")?    Well she was a struggling actress too smart, too talented and too honest for her own good.  Forced to audition for various commercial spots, this eminently "Method trained" SERIOUS actress would REPEATEDLY ARGUE (just as Dustin Hoffman's famously "impossible" character in Tootsie [1982]) with the directors/producers and clients of said commercials, telling them that they were asking her to do things that were ridiculous or simply impossible:

"How can I seriously be 'bouncy, happy and free' selling A TAMPON PRODUCT.  I'M A WOMAN.  I KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS, NO ONE IS EVER 'bouncy, happy and free' while MENSTRUATING" ;-).

In another commercial, for a Tequila company, she's asked to ... in a short, short black dress, sit on the lap of a certainly 'guapo' guy, smiling, with one arm around him pouring said tequila into a glass held in her other hand while looking simultaneously seductively at him AND AT THE CAMERA while he has his hand on her knee/thigh. Practically falling down from this absurd position, she finally slams down the glass/tequila saying: "YOU NEED A GYMNAST FOR THIS PART, NOT AN ACTRESS."  To which the casting agent replies: "And that's why we're looking for a professional."  WHICH, OF COURSE, ONLY GETS HER GOING: "Professional, eh?  WE'LL I SPENT FOUR YEARS IN THE CONSERVATORY, THREE SUMMER WORKSHOPS ON "THE METHOD,"  TWO SEMESTERS OF TEXT ANALYSIS ALONE (!!)" ... "But you misunderstand, we're NOT looking for Meryl Streep, we're looking for someone with curves and a smile who can take direction..."

"ARGH!!", she storms out.  And seeing the Tequila company president's car in the reserved parking space in the lot, she pulls out a large stick pin from her purse, PUNCTURES all four of his tires and writes with lipstick on his windshield "A gift from Meryl ..."

When Tequila company prez, Santiago (played by Mauricio Ochmann [IMDb] [FAes]*) and his (quite gay, but above all, just concerned for his welfare) aide Álvaro (played by Juan Diego Covarrubias [IMDb] [FAes]*) come to the car, shaking-his-head, Álvaro asks Santiago, "What is it that you do to all these women, that they respond to you in this way?"

But returning to our intrepid if exasperated protagonist Maria Laura... when rent comes due and she has no means to pay it, her American expat room-mate Kika (played by Papile Aurora [IMDb] [FAes]*) who's become increasingly convinced (actually by Maria Laura as well as their mutual (and also actor) friend Pablo (played by Luis Arietta [IMDb] [FAes]*)) that her heart-throb Mexican boyfriend was almost certainly cheating on her, tells MaLa: "Listen, I'll cover the rent for you this month if you do this for me: Sometime, when I'm out of the picture, hit-on my boyfriend... yes, you're good looking, hit-on my boyfriend ... and then tell me if he hits-on you back.  That way I'll finally know that he's capable of cheating on me." "You want ME to hit-on YOUR BOYFRIEND?"  "Yes, for your portion of this month's rent."

With no other option, MaLa takes her up on the job.  Since this was her roommate's boyfriend, so she kinda knew where he hung out.  And so one day, soon, she just happened to "run into him" in a Mexico City equivalent of a Starbucks where he'd go, and ... after spilling some coffee, having something in her eye, and some brooding "pleace help me" talk about how "LONELY it is to be in such a BIG, BIG city so, so faaaarrr from home ..." well Kika's boyfriend "makes his move," slipping closer to her, putting his arm around her  ... AND ...   BUSTED!   That's all Maria Laura needed. She quickly drew away. "Oh, MaLa you misunderstand me... I didn't mean anything by it," he tries to defend himself.  "Yeah, right."   Job done for put-upon, lied-to roommate.

Maria Laura reports her findings to Kika, and Kika dumps her scoundrel (in Spanish cabr...) of a boyfriend, pays MaLa's rent AND KIKA GOES ON TO RECOMMEND MALA's "SERVICES" TO OTHER FRIENDS.  Soon MaLa's "fame" makes it to Facebook and Twitter.  And she has a job ... NOT necessarily one that she wanted, but it literally "paid the rent."

But MaLa, a _professional actress_ after all took even _this job_ seriously.  She knew she couldn't just walk around looking the same as she trapped one boyfriend, fiance, husband, or otherwise "novio" after another of her clients.  Her picture / face would certainly soon make the rounds on Twitter, Instagram, etc.  So she had to make herself up, put on a different wig, different hairstyle, etc each time.  She also had to STUDY HER "TARGETS."  So that SERIOUS "Method Acting" background proved quite useful to her ;-)

But she also STILL WANTED to get A "REAL" ACTING JOB ... And she finally scores one, as a central protagonist "who comes down with cancer" on an upcoming telenovella ... (Interestingly, the average length of a telenovella is about 6-18 months, so that time could actually cover quite well the arc of someone's cancer treatments ... in whatever direction the producers wished to take the story).

HOWEVER, MaLa's soon-to-be producer, Patricia (played by Daniela Schmidt [IMDb] [FAes]*), tells her that in order to get the job, she'll have to do "one last job of her old kind" for her.  That is, Patricia tells MaLa that she (Patricia) wanted her (MaLa) to get her (Patricia's) ex-boyfriend to fall in love with her (MaLa) and then for MaLa to dump him.  "But this is much more than I've ever been asked to do.  My customers have simply asked me to check if their boyfriends or husbands would hit on me.  You're asking me to do far more than that ..."  "You're an actress, a very talented actress, you can do this ... and if you can't ... you won't get the job here."

So, reluctantly ..., MaLa takes on the job.  Guess who Patricia's ex was? ;-) ... the rest of the movie follows ;-)

This is one very, very fun / funny rom-com ;-)

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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