Official Competition (2021)

August 20th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat; Cast: Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martinez, Jose Luiz Gomez, Irene Escolar; Spain 2021, 115 min.

Argentine directors/co-writers Mariano Cohen and Gaston Duprat made an uproarious comedy satire The Distinguished Citizen which never got a decent showing in Britain. So it’s a shame that their ludicrous latest outing is now on general release, and not even Oscar Martinez, the star of the 2016 film, can save it. Films about movie making schemes are notoriously prone to disappoint – and this is no exception. Even the premise feels phoney.

Super-rich entrepreneur Humberto Suarez (Gomez) wants to be remembered as an art lover. So to celebrate his 80th birthday he gets eccentric director Lola Cuevas (Cruz) to adapt a best seller for the big screen with his daughter Diane (Escolar) bagging a role in a drama starring Hollywood duo Felix Rivero (Banderas) and theatre-loving pseudo intellectual Ivan Torres (Martinez) as feuding brothers, who hate each other on and off set.

Cuevas has all her hands full from the get go. The gags are not particularly promising: a rock made of cardboard dangling over the actors’ heads is mistaken for a real boulder. Rivero pretends at one point to have pancreatic cancer, and Torres, testing his rival, tries to make Rivero believe he is a serious actor. Meanwhile lesbian Cuevas sets up a kissing contest between the two men, and ends up doing the most convincing job and leaving Diane gasping for more, the two of them rolling around on the floor to the horror of Suarez senior. Finally, Rivero goads Torres into attacking him, but ends up falling down several floors with tragic consequences.

Official Competition is all glitter and glam with its loud and confrontational characters and a predicable plot-lines. Sometimes the self-parody actually succeeds in spite of itself. DoP Arnau Valis Colomer does his best to conjure up a chaotic ambiance which would make Cecil B. DeMille proud – but this is a tawdry Tinseltown project, not Ben Hur. AS



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