Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Film Critic: Plagued by Rom-Coms

What was the last artistically worthy romantic comedy you have seen? If you say When Harry Met Sally, Argentinian film reviewer Victor Tellez will want to kill you, or himself. He might let you get away with Bringing Up Baby—maybe. However anything that recycles those shopworn rom-com conventions produces nothing but bile from the jaded critic. One can therefore imagine Tellez’s surprise and conflicted responses when those same clichés start intruding upon his real life in director-screenwriter Hernán Guerschuny’s The Film Critic (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Tellez is happy to explain why Cassavetes represents real cinema, but day after day he slumps through press screenings of the latest sugar-coated tripe. After coffee with his equally snobbish colleagues, he proceeds to eviscerate the latest offensively inoffensive pop culture trifle in his newspaper review. At this point, Tellez has a rep for critical stinginess, but he is not exactly flush. That is why he is so put out when a Spanish expat grabs the perfect affordable apartment out from under him.

He finds it rather strange when their paths subsequently cross, but pursues Sofia hoping to talk her out of the flat. Instead, he finds himself on a colorful first date kind of thingy. You know exactly where the story is headed from here. There will be rain showers, contrived misunderstandings, walks in the park, and fireworks. Yet, Guerschuny scrupulously observes each formulaic element in order to give it an acerbic twist. In fact, this film just might surprise you and therefore Tellez.

As Tellez, Rafael Spregelburd is a paragon of reserve and restraint, so when he gives us something, it is significant. His chemistry with Dolores Fonzi’s defiantly upbeat and middlebrow Sofia is perfectly awkward, yet strangely believable. Telma Crisanti also gives the film periodic energy boasts, nicely playing off Spregelburd as his hipster video store clerk niece, even though her subplot becomes unwieldy over time.

Frankly, how could anyone find the trials and tribulations of a principled film critic anything less than compelling? Guerschuny’s script is smart enough to pass muster even with Tellez and his grumpy colleagues and as in any rom-com worth its salt, he incorporates some lovely Buenos Aires backdrops. It is a pleasure to watch it all come together. Recommended with real affection for those appreciate sophisticated comedies, The Film Critic opens this Friday (5/15) in New York, at the Cinema Village.