Directed by Antonio Serrano. Starring Cecilia Roth, Carlos Álvarez Novoa, Kuno Becker, Héctor Ortega, Margarita Isabel. (2003, R, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 8, 2003
Five minutes into Lucía, Lucía – after we are introduced to the charming title character (Roth, of Almodóvar's All About My Mother), who appears to be leading a jet-setting lifestyle of high fashion and trips to Rio whenever the mood strikes her – Lucía loses her dashing husband in a Mexican airport. But is he lost, or has he been kidnapped? Or did he just decide enough is enough: Perhaps a man can take only so much of an imaginative woman such as she. As it turns out, confusingly, again and again throughout the course of Serrano's odd film, Lucía is not the lady of leisure she appears to be, and she has no compunction about revealing this to us. Within the first five minutes of the film, her career, her lifestyle, even the very hairs on her head are called into question by her own jarring admissions. The passionate particulars of her matrimonial bed may be spun from whole cloth, as well, which then leads one to question her missing husband’s role in this strange woman’s vibrantly duplicitous inner life, or, indeed, if there is a husband at all. In reality, Lucía is the author of a series of children's books featuring barnyard fowl, her spacious apartment isn't half as spacious as she’d like to imagine, and she continually announces she's lying about what she's telling us, which makes her an interesting but wholly unreliable narrator. But what better way to inject some spice into a fading marriage than with a mystery that compounds, scene-by-scene, as its very sleuth reveals time and again, that all is not what it seems. It's a unique way to treat a midlife crisis like Lucía's, and Serrano is clearly having fun with his premise (adapted from Rosa Montero's novel La Hija Del Canibal). Of course, it's also somewhat off-putting to be kept willfully in the dark by Lucía's dodgy mindset. Regardless, she quickly decides that the mystery of the missing spouse is exactly what she needs and sets out on a comically Holmesian quest to discover the truth (or at least her version of it). Joining her are her elderly next-door neighbor Félix (Novoa), a grizzled, seventysomething relic of Castro's revolution who ardently expresses his desire for her even as he shuffles along with an old man's hesitant gait, and Adrian (Becker), a twentysomething musician with an affecting, puppy-dog crush on Lucía and the wherewithal to put it in motion. Together, the unlikely trio rush about Mexico City on motorcycles, seeking information from Lucía's telenovela-starring father (Ortega), famed for his resounding success in the role of a cannibal once upon a time (hence the film's Spanish title), various ineffectual police officers, and a group of Maoist revolutionaries who have a penchant for animal cruelty. The film comes to life in the interaction between Roth and the bittersweet Novoa (but less so with Becker), but Serrano's frequently mystifying device of having Lucía's cardboard psyche mess with the audience's minds is ultimately a confusing bore that detracts from what might have been a more eloquent (and interesting) take on middle-class midlife crises, telenovela-style.