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The 19th Chicago European Union Film Festival 2016 – MY BIG NIGHT (2015)

March 29, 2016

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written by: Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría
produced by: Enrique Cerezo
directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
rated: unrated 
runtime: 100 min.
release date: September 11, 2015 (TIFF), October 23, 2015 (Spain)

 

The only film I’ve seen from Spanish auteur Álex de la Iglesia is his second English-language film ‘The Oxford Murders” from 2008, which I found somewhat unmemorable. That was probably not the best movie to introduce myself to the director’s work as he is known for dark comedies that are laced with dramatic and horror elements, such as “The Perfect Crime” and “The Last Circus”. In the energetic and zany, “My Big Night” or “Mi Gran Noche”, de la Iglesia effortlessly balances an ensemble cast, reteaming with his screenwriting collaborator Jorge Guerricaechevarría to co-write a hilarious story that pokes fun at entertainers and accurately depicts the insanity of a television production.

“My Big Night” follows the comedy, drama and chaos surrounding a television production of a 2016 New Year’s Eve party being film in October, near Madrid. A temp agency has sent José (Pepón Nieto) to be an extra for the taping which is located in an industrial pavilion which is surrounded by picketers who are protesting the firing of 500 workers. For weeks, actors, performers, extras and the film crew have been holed up at this location for weeks, applauding and laughing at performances they don’t see and counting down a new year that hasn’t arrived – over and over again. Tensions and frustrations mount as do injuries and soap opera-type drama with the talent.

 

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As José shows interest in Paloma (Blanca Suárez), another extra sitting at his dinner table, he’s unaware of the mounting tension that is brimming backstage. The show’s co-hosts (played by Carolina Bang and Hugo Silva), a bickering married couple are consistently arguing over who’s overshadowing who’s and there are two singing sensations – arrogant veteran crooner Alphonso (veteran Spanish star Raphael, in a self-parodic role) and young and naive pop sensation Adanne (a hilarious Mario Casas), who clash as both of them are set on being the spotlight of the show. Supporting characters also play a factor in their own subplots, like Raphael’s adopted son, Yuri (Carlos Areces), who is conspiring with Óscar (Jaime Ordóñez) and Adanne’s (whose performance of his cheesy pop number “Fireman” is hilarious) producer who is trying to secure a stolen vial of the pop star’s recently procured semen before he falls victim of blackmail. All the while, the show’s producer, Benítez (Santiago Segura), is planning his own exit, knowing the channel is sinking.

The film dazzles with an abundance of colors, glitzy outfits and lively song numbers, flowing with the talent of editor Domingo Gonzalez’s smooth-yet-quick pacing as the story cuts back and forth to multiple storylines. Because of the creatively designed confined set (a character in and of itself) and distinctive characters, none of the stories are hard to follow, making it easy for viewers to relax and get a kick out of all these crazy characters. “My Big Night” is out to entertain and plays for laughs and it succeeds confidently.

There’s one more chance to see the film here in Chicago and that’s tonight at 8:30pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the Chicago European Union Film Festival.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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