Dir: Emilio Martinez Lazaro. 120mins. Spain. 2002.
The makers of The Other Side Of The Bed (El Otro Lado De La Cama) took a gamble with this modern musical comedy set to popular Spanish and Latin American rock n roll tunes. It paid off mightily in Spain, where the genre's originality, a magnetic young cast and great word-of-mouth have made Bed the year's top homegrown hit. There it has outperformed the likes of Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella), taking $5m (Euros 5.2m) in its first five weeks following a 200-screen rollout. In Spain there is already talk of a sequel, and international interest is high thanks to its box-office performance and three top awards at last May's Spanish Film Festival at Malaga (where overseas buyers were frustrated by its removal from parallel market screenings). Rights are likely to get snapped up during Bed's visit to the Toronto Film Festival, where it screens in the Gala section.
The issue of how well the musical renditions in the film will translate across cultures and languages is yet to be tested. Most audiences outside Spain and Latin America, where the film is sure to do big business, will not recognise the original pop songs. This could dampen positive reception, as the tunes seem to have been selected as much for their nostalgic resonance as for any foot-tapability: without the song-and-dance numbers, which offer good-natured satires of the musical genre, Bed is just one more in a long line of feelgood Spanish romantic comedies - albeit with a hipper twist thanks to a new generation of writing and acting talent and accompanying cultural references and humour. International fans of Spanish cinema will recognise many of the faces, especially female leads Paz Vega (Sex And Lucia) and Natalia Verbeke (The Son Of The Bride).
Verbeke plays Paula, a young woman who is cheating on her boyfriend Pedro (Toledo) with his best friend Javier (Alterio), who still can't bring himself to break it off with long-time girlfriend Sonia (Vega). The Other Side Of The Bed takes no time kicking off the action as Paula breaks up with Pedro, who turns to Javier and Sonia for consolation. Javier spends most of the film trying to divert Pedro's attention and placate Paula, but meanwhile Sonia is falling into Pedro's lonely arms. Comic secondary characters and a recurrent theme that 'we are all bisexual' add to the high jinks.
David Serrano's script is original and witty, with part of its charm being the insider look at the mechanics of the male brain. Unfortunately, the female characters aren't as fleshed out: in a reversal of the norm, we never see the women pow-wowing together like their male counterparts.
All the actors appear to have a blast hamming it up to the musical numbers, making them fun to watch. San Juan elicits the biggest laughs for his over-the-top characterisation of a tacky, machista taxi driver, while the other leads are typically strong. The surprise here is Toledo, an up-and-coming actor popular in Spain for his TV work and supporting film roles, who puts in a sweet and comic turn as the cuckolded Pedro.
Prod co: Telespan producciones
Sp dist: Buena Vista International Spain
Intl sales: Telecinco
Prods: Tomas Cimedevilla, Jose Sainz de Vicuna
Scr: David Serrano
Cinematography: Juan Molina
Ed: Angel Hernandez-Zoilo
Music: Roque Banos
Main cast: Ernesto Alterio, Guillermo Toledo, Paz Vega, Natalia Verbeke,
Antonio San Juan, Maria Esteve