4 January 2017 | blanche-2
That thing you do
We hear so much about the brilliance of British actors, and theater people are well-versed in the magnificence of the Russians. Somehow we don't hear about the Spanish. It is on a different level, granted, but as a former actress, I can state as this is my third Spanish series, that Spanish acting is wonderful.
Velvet is the story of a department store family in 1950s Madrid; after the patriarch and owner of the store kills himself, his son Alberto (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) returns from London to take over the family business. He rekindles his childhood romance with Ana Ribero (Paula Echevarría) who lived at the store with her uncle after the death of her mother. The two plan to marry.
The store, however, is in bad financial shape, and an offer of cash comes with the strong suggestion that Alberto marry the financier's daughter Cristina (Manuela Velasco). Though it breaks her heart, Anna encourages him to do it, and he does. Ana and Alberto remain in love and still want to be together.
Later Alberto butts heads with Cristina's brother Enrique (Diego Martin) as the two fight for management of the store.
"Velvet" is soapy, but the reality the actors bring to the series make it seem less so. The characters are beautifully drawn. The women in the sewing room, of whom Ana is one, are outstanding, especially Manuela Vellés (Luisa) and Cecilia Freire (Rita).
For me, it is Miguel Ángel Silvestre as Alberto who makes the show, and he is what Spanish acting is all about - natural, relaxed, charming, and intense, he is perfect as a man who adored his father and takes his responsibilities to Velvet seriously. From smiling at customers in the elevator to laughing at his best friend's (Javier Rey) crazy love problems, to exploding at his wife, he is amazing.
His chemistry with Paula Echevarría is wonderful, and you can believe the two have a long history together. Echevarria brings warmth to her role as the self-sacrificing Ana, and we can see her development as a person during the series. These two are much stronger actors than the romantic stars of Gran Hotel, though their material is better.
And one of those Gran Hotel stars, the gorgeous Amaia Salamanca, has a large role as Barbara, Cristina's sister-in-law. I honestly didn't recognize her as she wears a brunette wig, and her acting is so different. She plays a jaded, somewhat bitter woman whose husband cheats on her. In Gran Hotel, she was this fragile, soft woman -- quite a change.
Another Gran Hotel star, Llorenç González, plays Jonas, an opposite role from Andres in Gran Hotel. Here he's a gum chewing smart aleck, kind of a snake oil salesman type, whereas as Andres, he was sad and victimized for much of the series.
The only thing in the show that drove me insane was the romance between Rita and Pedro (Adrian Lastra) which was too drawn out and frustrating. Both actors though demonstrated a wide range of comedy and drama. Also when one watches it as I did, binge watching, it seems like everybody is constantly being slapped in the face.
There are too many excellent actors to single out because everyone is so good, but kudos to Jose Sacristan as Ana's uncle; Asier Etxeandia as the designer Raul; Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as the manager of the sewing room, Dona Blanca; Angela Molina as the tragic Isabel; and Marta Hazas as Rita's sexy knockout sister, Clara.
The '50s music is great, a lot of sha-na-na songs, love songs, and Elvis-type music. Someone on this board stated that this series was probably made for American audiences, because some colloquialisms and fashion (mainly pajamas) don't seem right, and there is no mention of Franco, no sevillanas, no bullfights. It was perhaps watered down a bit to appeal to foreigners, though they have done an excellent job of recreating the '50s. And the fashions are exceptional.
Highly, highly recommended - great for Spanish students, great for entertainment, and a great example of a group of actors not often talked about - the Spanish.