Saturday, December 19, 2015

For Your (Unlikely) Consideration: Paranoid Girls

Ana (short for Anita) is shocked to find Madrid’s exclusive modeling scene is rife with sex, drugs, booze, and power games. She might be a fashion blogger, but she is ill-equipped to deal with so much reality. However, all this messiness might be temporary. The center of Spanish fashion industry is shifting to Barcelona, spelling serious trouble for Diana, the sharp-elbowed director of the Nueva Moda agency’s Madrid office. The claws will come out in Pedro del Santo’s Paranoid Girls (trailer here), which is campaigning in multiple Oscar categories, including best picture and best score.

Spain chose Jon Garaño & Jose Mari Goenaga’s Flowers as their official foreign language Oscar submission—and they were not necessarily wrong, even though it failed to make the recently announced shortlist. In all honesty, it is the better film. Not to be deterred, the Paranoid Girls producers and backers decided to take matters into their own hands by launching their own long shot campaign in virtually all categories. It really has no chance, even though Javier del Santo’s jaunty jazz-flavored score deserves a good listen. Fortunately, the proper paper work was submitted on his behalf.

Still, don’t hold your breath for any Oscar love. However, if Team Paranoid gets enough screeners into enough hands, somebody might just pick up Paranoid Girls. Essentially, it is a straighter, trashier Almodóvar film, featuring plenty vicarious sex and partying, held together by a sentimental off-the-shoulders wrap.

Ana has come to the big city to pursue her studies and fashion blogging aspirations, finding digs with Paula, a part-time model. Paula quickly convinces the provincial innocent to start modeling with her for Diana’s agency. Just when Ana and Paula start to click, their next closest friend Veronica threatens to leave Diana’s stable. She has fallen hard for Miguel, the kinky and brooding photographer of the moment who has gotten her hooked on coke. Diana cannot afford to let either of them walk, so she schemes accordingly. Ana and Paula will do their best to provide Veronica moral support, while a love triangle develops between them and Paula’s sincere, better-suited-for-Ana ex, Andrés.

It is not hard to grasp the appeal of Paranoid Girls beyond J. Del Santo’s smoothly elegant themes. Mairen Muñoz is appealingly earnest as Ana and Patricia Valley’s Veronica is a bombshell. Frankly Marta Mir Martín’s Paula is a bit of a pill, but what can you expect? She pales in comparison to Bárbara de Lema, who is great fun vamping it up and chewing the scenery as Diana. There are also guys in this film, but you are not likely to remember them.

So good luck to Paranoid Girls. It is not Oscar caliber, but it is a guilty pleasure. As a frothy bauble that looks and sound great, it is likely to find more screening opportunities after awards season.