(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 31
3 out of 5 🐙
A friend asked if I knew any movies like Y Tu Mama Tambien and this flick popped in my mind and we ordered some Chinese food and watched it. I originally saw this joint at The Miami International Film Festival in 2007, two years after it was released in its country of origin, Bolivia. The aforementioned festival came around once a year and afforded the local citizenry with the rare appearance of independent and/or foreign entertainment. There are a few artistic oases in the 305 and I’ve heard there are a lot more since I escaped in 2008 but they are few and far between. They’re not called oases because they are plentiful. Overall, Miami is not an indie movie city. It is a mainstream blockbuster city. I love shit and shinola. and can tell the difference, so either side suits me.
The Most Beautiful of My Very Best Years – record scratch sound – I gotta take a minute here and comment on this translation. I realize titles are not supposed to be translated word for word and sometimes they are not even the same at all because the person in charge thought a translation wouldn’t resonate with the foreign audience. But this is a terrible translation. The title clearly states that these are the best and most beautiful years. It does not say they are the best OF the most beautiful years. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. I could get into a long rant about grammar (as if this isn’t long already) but you’re not here for that noise. Let me put the needle back on the record.
I chose this film initially because it was from a LatinX country. It’s not that I prefer LatinX countries. I’d say my foreign movie BFF is the United Kingdom but that’s largely because I only speak English and Spanish and I was raised in ‘Murica. But close behind my Anglo-Saxon brothers are my LatinX hermanos. Mexico, Spain, and to a lesser extent Argentina and Brazil and even diminutive Peru have all blown my hair back. Close behind and always threatening to surpass the LatinX creators is “Asia”. It’s not really fair to lump in the very diverse film traditions of China, South Korea, Hong Kong (yes, it’s not the same as the mainland), but I do. Sometimes I’m lazy. I do keep India separate but not many films from the subcontinent have lit my fire and a lot of that had to do with my aversion to Bollywood. I’ve even spent time with central, northern, and eastern Europe. But I’ve historically shied away from Scandinavian movies because every time I see one I want to do a Frank Pentangeli, which is particularly difficult now since my bathroom doesn’t have a tub. I’ve largely omitted Africa, with a few exceptions, but again that’s a bullshit cultural bias thing from my mainstream American upbringing and I’m working on rectifying it.
Also this movie is from Bolivia and I had not seen a Bolivian movie before. I probably could have just written that sentence.
This film has a lot in common with the fantastic Y Tu Mama Tambien. Maybe too much. There are two main characters: Berto (Juan Pablo Milan) and Victor (Roberto Guilhon). Victor is a video store clerk who has all the funny lines in the movie; he is the philosophizer and ladies’ man. When the movie opens he just wants to start his own erotic magazine. Berto just wants to sell his car so he can take a vacation in Spain.
Yes I know Victor sounds an awful lot like Randal Graves from Clerks.
His best friend Berto is a severely depressed guy. He doesn’t waste words. He might say a total of 100 words in the entire movie and I don’t think he ever actually smiles. I can tell he’s depressed but we get hit over the head with this message. I want to know more about why he’s depressed and more of his world view. This is a sharp deviation from Cuaron’s film because both of his male protagonists are much more vibrant than Berto ever is. They are certainly fleshed out characters who have distinct personalities but they aren’t the black and white dichotomy presented by writer/director Martin Boulocq.
The film gains momentum as the La Paz odd couple tool around in Berto’s car and try to improve his game and sell his car so he can take his dream vacation. Both actors do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life. It feels like we are watching a documentary not a feature film. The dialogue is organic. It’s at such odds with the polished patter in most major American studio offerings. A scene may last too long or leave loose ends that never get wrapped up. But this conversational mayhem is what makes it ring true. And don’t get this twisted. I get that this mayhem is also orchestrated but Boulocq he gives it the feel of improvisation.
And like Y Tu Mama Tambien, this happy, if not dysfunctional, friendship gets complicated when Camila, Victor’s girlfriend (Alejandra Lanza), arrives. I didn’t enjoy her turn as much as the guys. She doesn’t get as much to say as the fellows so she can’t really extend and maybe she loses because the other two characters are so vivid in comparison whereas Maribel Verdu is the sun in Cuaron’s movie.
The first half of the movie is full of rough (in a good way) interchanges but the second half (post girlfriend’s arrival) has too many lulls and long camera shots that are intended to let the audience know how “poignant” this moment is supposed to be. The cinematography is a bit irritating also because the director is in love with a particular blurry effect. Still there are conversational highs in the latter part of the film that keep you going.
I won’t tell you what happens with these three amigos because I’m not a spoiler. But I will tell you I was disappointed. Boulocq knew exactly what he was doing to this audience. In a sense I admire that but I’m not sure it was the best decision. I felt robbed. But I guess in real life you get jacked sometimes.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)