In her breezy 1935 vehicle In Person, Ginger Rogers, playing an incognito movie star, donned a disguise to hide her comeliness and was dubbed an "ouch-face" by all who saw her. But, even hideously disfigured as she was, she had nothing on Mónica Cervera, the star of 20 Centimeters. As Marieta/née Adolfo, a transvestite prostitute equipped with a copious penis, who dearly craves a sex change, Cervera has bulbously popped eyes, a protruding beak of a nose and no chin to speak of. She makes the tranny Warhol star, Holly Woodlawn of Trash, look like Vivien Leigh, and Almodovar's jolie laide muse, Rossy de Palma, who briefly appears in this film, seem a goddess by comparison. And, oh yeah, Marieta is also a narcoleptic, which creates no end of wacky situations for her.
Marieta lives with Tomás (Miguel O'Dogherty), one of those omniscient dwarfs so beloved by a certain school of dramaturgy, and plies her Madrid trade alongside a cadre of even more beat-up-looking, bewigged creatures. Once you become accustomed to her serious unattractiveness, feisty, embattled Marieta is a rather affecting character, but just as you might be succumbing to her outrageous plight, writer-director Ramón Salazar screws everything up by inserting yet another inane musical number to throw you out of any conceivable empathy. These sequences--which include a cover of Madonna's "True Blue"--are bereft of even the lowest camp value, only impede the exposition, and add further exasperation to the sorely tried viewer's experience. With all the freakish characters, bitchy cat-fighting between the whores, and comically appalling anal-sex interludes (often featuring a suspiciously fake-looking dildo), it all makes one think that the Spanish film industry needs to seriously get hold of itself and stop with these slavish, sub-Almodóvarian forays into excess. There is a rather fascinating subject matter here regarding seemingly 100% heterosexual men who crave "chicks with dicks"--I personally recall being driven around Barcelona's stadium by one such type just to check them out, working the streets by night-but no serious exploration is vouchsafed here.
It all manages to work out for Marieta in the end. She gets her "20 centimeters" snipped off, inspiring--you guessed it--one more impishly florid number. She also rejects the somewhat unbelievable love of the handsome hunk (Pablo Puyol) who gallantly introduces her to his family, but whom she feels is only after her for said detested appendage. I suppose, for some in the transgendered community, this might constitute a happy ending, but it may only want to make any male audience member cross his legs.