Friday, November 12, 2010

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

After Dark Habits, I thought Almodovar was prepared to move on from his extreme camp roots. But, he has back tracked for this film. What Have I Done to Deserve This? plays out very much like Spain’s answer to John Waters’ Polyester. Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore Polyester. In fact, it stands as my second favorite Waters film. But, I wasn’t expecting it from Almodovar after his work with Dark Habits.

The film is very funny. At times, very smart. The way Almodovar plays up his characters with such an extreme honesty. He might be poking fun at the mess of family struggles, but he does wear his heart on his sleeve while doing this. The characters are lovable even if they are extreme caricatures of a family unit.

The highlight of the film is the role of the grandmother played by Almodovar regular Chus Lampreave. Lampreave played one of the nuns in Dark Habits and works with Almodovar throughout many of his films that follow (she was even in the most recent film, Broken Embraces). Her characters are always likable, silly, extreme, and filled with a lot of heart. Her role as the mindless grandmother in a dysfunctional family adds a little heart and spirit to the film.

Carmen Maura, as the mother, plays the role to perfection. Her acting has shown much improvement since the Almodovar debut of Pepi Luci Bom. In fact, it takes a while for it to set in that she is the same actress. How much she has matured over just a few of Almodovar’s films.

My biggest complaints of the film: the comfort the family has with the prostitute next door, the mother selling her 12 year old homosexual son to the dentist for sex, and a bit of unnecessary magic (and mediocre effects). I realize it is a comedy. I’m supposed to let these feelings go and just enjoy the experience. And, I did. I just feel this film should have come before Dark Habits.

This is probably the start of Almodovar’s interest in “the other.” Much of Almodovar’s career is made up of using other styles and other film movements within his films. For this film, I am very much reminded of the Italian film Fists in the Pocket. I would assume this suggests Italian Neorealism


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