Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Cruz and Banderas in top comic form


 The movie Official Competition begins plausibly enough. A  successful businessman decides that money isn't enough: He needs to leave a cultural legacy. What better way to make a mark than by financing a movie? Argentine directors Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn start with that premise but quickly settle into a look at the competitive conflict between two actors (Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez) who have been cast in a project that's supposed to fulfill the businessman's dream. Jose Luis Gomez plays the tycoon, a naive fellow who buys the rights to a novel he hasn't bothered to read. Sporting an out-sized pile of frizzy red hair, Penelope Cruz portrays the film's director, a woman with novel ideas about how to obtain the performances she wants from her two stars. Much of the film focuses on rehearsals as the actors prepare for the shoot. Banderas's Felix, who has had some popular success, eschews method-oriented probing. Martinez's Ivan, who teaches acting, takes the opposite view, insisting on depth and authenticity. Duprat and Cohen have a gift for sight gags, one involving a boulder that has been hoisted into the air by a crane. Cruz and Banderas display finely honed comic chops and Martinez helps ground the movie with Ivan's seriousness. Official Competition may not expand your view of filmmaking. But the movie proves entertaining and funny and Cruz and her two compatriots work at levels that fill Official Competition with enjoyment.

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