6 September 2006 | gradyharp
REINAS Resounds with Style, Terrific Writing and a Great Cast : A Winner!
Director Manuel Gómez Pereira has long been respected both in Spain and around the world for his edgy, hilarious, clever and wildly entertaining films. Writing with Yolanda García Serrano he has hit the mark with REINAS ('Queens') not only in taking on controversial subject matter and creating a successful comedy out of politically dangerous topic, but he has also done so by avoiding the usual pitfalls of gay stereotypes, making the focus of this film about Spain's approval of gay marriages not on the men involved, but instead on their mothers - the real Queens.
The story is fairly straightforward (if you will): there is to be a group wedding of gay couples in which three of the couples involved have frantic problems with their mothers' attending. Some of the mothers approve, others despair, others take advantage of the situation to meet their own needs. The effect of these 'double mothers-in-law' on the six men involved is packed with surprises, secrets, bizarre behavior, confessions, manifestations of life patterns less than reputable, and whirling dervish spins on acceptance.
The mothers are portrayed by some of the finest actresses in Spanish cinema: Marisa Paredes portrays Reyes, a famous actress (hysterically identified as Carmen Maura) whose class refuses to accept the cat that her son is marrying her gardener's son; Carmen Maura (yes) plays Magda, the owner of a new hotel chain catering to gays; Verónica Forqué is Nuria, a sex addicted nymphomaniac whose drives don't prevent her form bringing her lusts home to her family; Mercedes Sampietro plays Judge Helena who barely tolerates the effect of a public wedding of her son on her career but ends up being forced to perform the ceremony; and Argentine actress Betiana Blum is Ofelia, a restaurant owner/worker who arrives form Buenos Aires for the wedding with her runabout dog causing antics that threaten her son's relationship. The sons are played to perfection and without the slightest bit of stereotypical behavior we usually encounter in these films by six excellent actors: Gustavo Salmerón, Unax Ugalde, Hugo Silva, Daniel Hendler, Paco León, and Raúl Jiménez.
Manuel Gómez Pereira makes fine use of flashbacks and flash-forwards that enhance the breakneck speed the story needs. There is enough tenderness on the part of every actor to offset the near-slapstick comedy scenes, and in the end the movie leaves the audience with a true sense of celebration - not only for the characters involved in the story but also with the forward movement of human rights in Spain. This is a highly entertaining, polished, classy film that deserves a very wide audience. Grady Harp, September 06