Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Elsa & Fred (SPANISH)

(Elsa y Fred)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Senior Citizens Seize Last Chance at love in Bittersweet Romantic Romp

Elsa (China Zorrilla) is an 82 year-old incurable romantic with a Bucket List of things she still wants to do before she dies. First and foremost, she’d like to fall in love one more time so as to be able to frolic with her beau in Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain just like Anita Ekberg did in La Dolce Vita.
This is easier said than done, given that Elsa’s in failing health with her kidneys dependent on daily dialysis treatments. Fortunately, she’s one irrepressible bon vivant determined to enjoy life to the very end, despite her medical condition.
As fate would have it, recently-widowed Alfredo (Manuel Alexandre) decides to move into a smaller apartment in Madrid in a building owned by his domineering daughter, Cuba (Blanca Portillo). Wouldn’t you know, his arrival is not missed by his new next-door neighbor, naughty Elsa, who pounces on the grieiving geezer the first chance she gets, like a starving pit bull that just found some raw meat.
But Fred isn’t necessarily inclined to move so quickly, since he’s a nerdy hypochondriac who takes a pile of pills for an assortment of real and imagined disorders. He’s scared by Elsa’s bossiness, which includes an insistence that he stop taking all his medications for a week. Turns out he has good reason to be frightened of her, for she’s a compulsive liar who fibs about everything from fender benders to the reason why she divorced her husband.
However, resistance proves to be futile once she’s sunk her claws into Fred, and it’s not long before she has him behaving dishonestly, too. For example, they run out on the bill at a fancy restaurant, illogically implying that the taking of such liberties by the elderly is proof of vitality.
Anyhow, this shamelessly sentimental tale makes its inexorable march to Rome for a recreation of the above-referenced fountain scene from Fellini’s 1960 screen classic, props like a cat and a cup of milk included. Trouble is we’re supposed to buy the idea that this is all Elsa needs to be able to rest in peace. Talk about life imitating art! Or is this art imitating art?
Regardless, the transparent attempt to tug on the heartstrings didn’t work for me. So it’s hard in good conscience to recommend a sappy flick with a heroine this shallow, her spunkiness in the face of a dire prognosis notwithstanding.

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets and mature themes.
In Spanish, Italian and English with subtitles.
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: Mitropoulos Films

To see a trailer of Elsa & Fred, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1MlpAmbudM&feature=related

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