Millionaire Humberto Suarez (Jose Luis Gomez), the owner of a giant pharmaceutical company, is eighty years old and is trying to figure out how to perpetuate his name. First, he decides to build a bridge in his name, and then donate it to the city. But then a more interesting thought occurs to him. And what if he is the creator of the film? Not in the sense, of course, of the director, but to finance the creation of the film, but so that everyone knows who is behind it. What this film will be about – Umberto does not matter. The main thing here is that it should be directed by a famous and popular director, a favorite of critics and viewers, and that the best actors play in it!
Suarez’s assistant Matias (Manolo Solo) was given instructions accordingly. Matias for wild money bought the rights to a book by a Nobel laureate called “Confrontation”, which tells about the enmity between two brothers – Pedro and Manuel.
Matthias also found a director for a new film – this is Lola Cuevas (Penelope Cruz), a very fashionable director, treated kindly by critics and viewers. Lola is promised a huge fee and complete creative freedom: Suarez is not going to interfere in the process of creating a picture, especially since he does not understand anything about it. He simply asks Lola to bring the best actors into the picture, and the director offers two actors for the role of brothers: Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) and Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez).
Lola expects that there will be all sorts of difficulties with these actors. The fact is that they are from completely different worlds. Ivan is a famous Spanish actor who plays in the theater and has his own acting school. Felix is an international movie star, he has acted extensively in Hollywood and has a bunch of the most prestigious film awards.
However, Lola is not afraid of difficulties: she is an innovative director and a dictatorial director at the same time, and she is confident that she will be able to rein in two such different actors and make them work together.
Both actors – for appropriate fees, of course – agreed to take part in the making of the film, although they are not at all eager to work with each other. Lola began rehearsals with them, but the process of “grinding” the actors to each other and to the director was very, very difficult.
The original title of the film “Competencia oficial” is translated as “official competition”, and this fully corresponds to the plot of the film, which tells about the rivalry between two famous actors. The name “Main role” here does not correspond to anything, but as we know, this happens quite often with Russian-language names.
The script of the film was written by Argentine screenwriters and directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Dupra together with Andres Dupra, the film was directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Dupra. Two of the three main roles were played by the Spaniards Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas (they also acted as producers of the picture), the role of Ivan Torres was played by a very famous Argentine actor, writer and theater director Oscar Martinez. The rest of the roles in the film were played by Spanish actors and actresses.
It would seem that nothing particularly interesting happens in the film at all: almost the entire film, Lola rehearses with the actors, seeking them to play roles in accordance with her own vision, and Lola is also trying to somehow smooth out the conflicts between Felix and Ivan, who are simply on each other the spirit is unbearable.
But it’s all done – just amazing! Excellent script: the characters of all the main characters are written in detail – primarily through their monologues and dialogues between them – and we learn a lot about each of them. It also very interestingly shows and explores the work of the director and his (in this case, of course, her) role in the creation of the picture and the influence the director has on the fact that the characters in the picture will be shown in this way and not otherwise. How does the director extinguish conflicts between the actors, or vice versa – how does he provoke these conflicts in order to evoke certain emotions that he needs.
It is also staged and filmed in an interesting, original and spectacular way: the very manner of staging significantly affects the perception of the picture. According to the script, the millionaire gave a large building for rehearsals and filming, which is practically not used. There are many spacious and completely empty rooms in this building, devoid of furniture, and it is in them that rehearsals take place. The cameraman (Arnau Waltz Colomer) finds very interesting angles and builds the frame so skillfully that it works just fine in itself and draws attention to itself.
And finally, the most important thing is how it is played! Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz recently played together in the wonderful film “Pain and Glory” directed by Pedro Almodovar, on the films of which they both became famous (both Banderas and Cruz starred in 8 films of this director). They have a great tandem, they feel each other very well.
Penelope Cruz has a very unexpected role here. An eccentric and very strong-willed female director – Penelope has never played such a role. Here they also made her a magnificent hairstyle of curly red hair, also painted hemp on her face – the image turned out to be somewhat unexpected, but Penelope Lola played simply brilliantly! A wonderful role, even, in some way outstanding, although somewhat hooligan.
Lola is such a “thing in itself”: it is difficult to understand it, it is difficult to “read” it – in the sense that no one knows what Lola will throw out in the next minute. And she can throw out a lot, I assure you. At the same time, this is not a tyrant director or a director for whom outrageousness is an end in itself! No, she knows well what she is doing, she knows how to achieve her goals. And some moments with Lola are downright masterpieces. And what an amazing episode in terms of “chemistry” when Lola comes to Felix’s dressing room and, with a completely absent and indifferent expression on her face, suddenly sits on his knees to treat a small wound from a chip that Felix received during a rehearsal. Bublik and I there just howled with delight, it was so great done!
Antonio Banderas actually played himself here: a Spanish actor who reached great heights in Hollywood and became a big international star. Banderas in this role showed a fair amount of self-irony, and the role is not at all “flat”, but interesting and deep: Felix does not build a superstar out of himself, as one might have assumed at first. No, he honestly works on the role, he does not show off in front of Ivan, but he is clearly offended by Ivan’s dismissive attitude towards him, a Hollywood celebrity. And he is constantly trying to prove to his opponent that he did not just become a superstar, that he is a real actor! And Antonio had several very emotional and vivid episodes there.
Great role, well played. And I said several times that if Banderas was somehow not particularly impressive in his American roles, then his Spanish roles are a completely different matter, here Banderas is just very good!
Oscar Martinez here portrayed a kind of actor-snob. He does not particularly respect this fashionable lady director, he does not particularly respect this Hollywood star – Felix. Think some kind of American star. Just think, there are some idiotic figurines with the image of someone’s uncle there. Yes, this Felix is paid a lot of money, Ivan Torres himself cannot even dream of such money. But Felix is paid, Ivan believes, not for acting, but for the fact that his name on posters brings money. The real acting skills are him, Torres. Old acting school, repertory theater and all that. Already we, Ivan believes, understand which of the two of us is a real actor.
Also a good and worthy role, Ivan’s picks with Felix were very funny, the stories were also written very well in terms of how they played each other – as a rule, quite evil and even cruelly.
There are a lot of downright impressive episodes in the film: in addition to the rehearsals themselves, this is the story of how Lola forced them to rehearse in several, shall we say, extreme conditions, how Lola forced them to bring all her cinematic awards, well, a really very funny story with that how Lola arranged an audition for the main female role of a relative of a millionaire, and the director herself chose this girl, the millionaire did not insist on this.
A wonderful film, simply wonderful, watched with great pleasure. However, I note that this is clearly from the “cinema not for everyone” series, and that viewers who are accustomed to the usual mainstream may not perceive the picture. Just think, some people are sitting and rehearsing something there – why film this at all?
However, for such a purely author’s film, the rating on IMDB (and on Kinopoisk) is quite high, and this cannot but rejoice.
The picture was in the Russian box office, it is available for viewing on many Russian streaming services – IVI, Premier, Okko and others. I listened to the Russian dubbing – it, by the way, is very good, it is quite possible to watch in dubbing: they chose the voice actors well, and the text as such is quite simple there.
Director: Mariano Cohn, Gaston Dupra Cast: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martinez, Jose Luis Gomez, Manolo Solo, Nagore Aramburu, Irena Escolar, Pilar Castro, Coldo Olabarri, Juan Grandinetti
Worldwide gross: $4.4 million
Satirical tragicomedy, Spain-Argentina, 2021, 115 min.