MY MOTHER LIKES WOMENNR
More than two decades ago, the French classic La Cage aux Folles delivered a light, broad, stylish, high-concept comedy featuring gay characters that promoted family values and socked fascistic narrow-mindedness. Winning Yank acceptance, it became a smash, a franchise and even did it with subtitles. Now from Spain comes My Mother Likes Women, another light, broad, stylish, high-concept, subtitled comedy featuring gay characters that promotes love and family and sticks it to men behaving badly (here, a groping shrink, stingy boss and dominating husband).
While La Cage also boasted extraordinary performances from its two leads and delicious farce, My Mother doesn't share those assets. But assets it has, in its marketable story and the spirited, well-intentioned way the story plays out. Put simply, My Mother is about the seismic impact the revelation has on three twentysomething sisters when they learn that their concert pianist mother Sofia (Rosa Maria Sardà) has gone gay, having fallen in love with young Czech pianist Eliska (Eliska Sirová).
While solid middle-class values and their decent upbringing demand that the three women graciously accept mom's new lover and newfound lesbianism, their personal problems and various neuroses get in the way of such open-mindedness. Not too wisely, My Mother focuses mainly on Elvira (Leonor Watling), the most neurotic and cloyingly manic of the siblings. She's a flustered, troubled aspiring novelist working for a penny-pinching editor/publisher (Alex Angulo) who obviously exploits her. Elvira also pays regular visits to a psychologist (Aitor Mazo), who could only have gotten his certification by mail.
When Elvira, following advice from her shrink, asks Sofia for money so she can quit her crummy job and concentrate on writing, Sofia informs her that her available funds have been committed to Eliska, who is having grant and visa complications. It doesn't take much for an alarmed Elvira to share her concern with sisters Jimena (Maria Pujalte), who's in a bad marriage with a man she calls "the fascist who voted socialist," and Sol (Silvia Abascal), a free-spirited rock singer who eventually scandalizes the whole family by belting to a live audience her newest composition with the repetitive hook that "my mother likes women." Meanwhile, Elvira, with a history of unfortunate relationships with men, messes up another one after she comes on too strongly to handsome writer Miguel (Chisco Amado), who, inexplicably, seems quite charmed by her.
Besieged by their demons, the sisters soon conspire to break up the couple by getting Eliska seduced. When they succeed to the point of making it appear the young Czech has been unfaithful, the lovers fight and Eliska goes home to the Czech Republic. The consequences are so horrid that the sisters fly there to bring her back. After a few more twists, all ends well and nicely tied up.
My Mother does a fine job of making the two lovers likeable. But in this era of "The L Word" and other bold depictions, the relationship between Sofia and Eliska isn't entirely convincing. On the plus side, those strictly embracing traditional family values won't have a problem embracing this couple.
But the film's real problem is the character of Elvira, who, carrying the narrative, is more unpleasant than endearing. She brutally avenges her slimy shrink by destroying his aquarium, but, in so doing, also punishes the poor fish and the confounded audience.
Well-produced and smart-looking, Ins Par"s and Daniela Fejerman's film does provide a measure of pleasure and a delicious premise that, wittier and less shrill, could be a terrific, timely and original remake for American audiences.