Dir: David Trueba. Spain. 2000. 115mins.
Prods: Fernando Trueba PC, Buenavida Producciones. Backers: Amiguetes Entertainment, TVE, Via Digital. Domestic dist: Lola Distribucion. Intl sales: Lolafilms (34) 91 436 7400. Prod: Cristina Huete. Scr: David Trueba. DoP: Javier Aguirresarobe. Sound: Pierre Gamet. Music: Roque Banos. Ed: Pablo G. Del Amo. Main cast: Santiago Segura, Pablo Carbonell, Ariadna Gil, Loles Leon, Luis Cuenca, Jesus Bonilla
Masterpiece (Obra Maestra), writer-director David Trueba's second outing after the acclaimed The Good Life (La Buena Vida), may not live up to its tongue-in-cheek title, but it is a decidedly good-hearted romp chock full of memorable gags and one-liners. Stars Santiago Segura (Torrente), Pablo Carbonell (a local TV favourite) and Ariadna Gil (Belle Epoque) offer massive domestic appeal, while the universal nature of the genre, the Trueba name (brother Fernando is an Oscar winner) and top sales efforts from heavy-hitter Lolafilms should assure the film an international showing.
Segura plays frustrated filmmaker Benito who, along with aspiring actor pal Carolo (a promising debut from Carbonell), dreams of the golden era of Hollywood musicals. Disheartened by their favourite actress' (Gil) rude dismissal of their debut script, Benito and Carolo kidnap the spoiled star and force her to act in their film.
If the story sounds familiar, you've probably seen John Waters' Cecil B. Demented. Rumour has it the coincidence has a few feathers ruffled. Nevertheless, Obra holds its own. The laughs really get cranking when the wayward duo begin shooting their stereotypically amateur effort at Benito's family vacation home. Trueba throws a few curveballs - such as Benito's extended family turning up unexpectedly - which keep a potentially repetitive storyline from stalling. Subtexts such as the movie star's emotional and physical detox, and insights into the art of filmmaking, add complexity to the story without overwhelming the humour.
Lines from the film such as Carolo's "Motivation, motivation; interior world, interior world" or Benito's "I haven't copied [other films], they're homages" are likely to be heard repeated even after Masterpiece has left theatres - perhaps the best compliment a comedy can receive.