WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Carmen Maura,
Maria Barranco, Julieta Serrano, Antonio Banderas, Fernando Guillen
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Audio: Dolby 2 Channel Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Promotional Trailer
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2001
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown marked my fist
introduction to the cinematic world of Pedro Almodovar more than ten years ago. Its a funny, energetic and sexy comedy,
filled with the directors distinct touches. Hes
a filmmaker who intuitively understands that a young man telling the sad story of his
childhood can be interesting, but if the beautiful woman hes telling it to is
undressing at the same time
well, thats something different.
He loves the women in his films
at the very least, hes
fascinated by them, as are we, the audience. In
this picture, the women are a mix of strength and vulnerability, of passion and neurosis. And like the pebble dropped on the snowcapped
mountain that becomes enormous by picking up snow on the way down, their lives are
spiraling out of control in wild, funny and unpredictable ways.
Pepa (Maura) is an actress in Madrid.
As the film opens, we learn that her longtime married lover, Ivan (Guillen) is
breaking up with her, but we dont know the background yet. Both work in voiceovers, and one terrific and
well-constructed scene shows her listening to Ivans scripted words of love, as she
adds the replies
she and Ivan are respectively dubbing Joan Crawford and Sterling
Haydens Johnny Guitar into Spanish.
Problem is, shes pregnant
and her attempts to get in touch
with Ivan one last time to let him know result in a series of miscommunications that
doesnt help her state of mind. Things
grow even more complex with the arrival of unexpected visitors to her penthouse: her hysterical friend Candela (Barranco) who may
have caused an international incident by sleeping with a renowned terrorist (I
didnt know where to go, she sobs, I couldnt face my parents. Its bad enough that I became a model),
and a couple who arrive to sublet her place
the young man, Carlos (Banderas) turns
out to be Ivans grown son that Pepa never knew about.
Im his fathers ex-lover, she pleasantly introduces herself
to his fiancée.
In the meantime, Ivans ex-wife, Lucia (Serrano), the only
clinically unbalanced character in the bunch, is seeking revenge on Pepa. If that doesnt sound like an intriguing mix,
throw in for good measure a mambo cab driver who also supplies a roving drug store on
wheels, a burning bed, a broken-then-fixed-then-broken again phone, and a pitcher of
gazpacho laced with barbiturates. Trust me.
The comedy evolves from great characters to take on a life of its
own. There are plenty of missteps along the
way involving slapstick, situations, and even the occasional spoof. Watch Pepas commercial for Ecce Homo laundry
detergent, for example
that one gets me every time.
Almodovar has created an energetic crowd pleaser of a comedy, with
winning characters, outrageous scenarios, a sharp script and his ever-present touch of sex
appeal. This is a comic masterpiece, and one
of the all time funniest.
This is a good looking anamorphic transfer from MGM, one that
thankfully maintains Almodovars expressive color schemes. These colors are bright, vivid, and beautiful
throughout, with no hints of distortion or bleeding.
Images are generally very sharp and clear, with no signs of compression, and only
occasional tell-tale marks and debris on the print to indicate the films age. Overall, though, a very satisfying effort.
You have a choice of the original Spanish or English dubbed tracks
(with appropriate subtitles, of course). Both
are 2-channel mono, and both are perfectly adequate, if not exemplary. The Spanish track actually has a bit more fullness
and range than the thinner sounding English counterpart.
Spoken words have good clarity throughout, as are the musical cues and occasional
Only a video release promotional trailer.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown might be a mouthful to say, but its a film that digests easily. No one who loves to laugh should pass up the chance to watch Pedro Almodovars comic masterpiece on DVD.