Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Screen 9 articles

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

1988

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Poster
  • IT's convoluted but compact—nearly every strand in its sitcom plot is wound together in a web of coincidence. Still, nothing fulfills the bang-bang promise of the first 40 minutes. (Losing momentum midway, as everyone converges on Pepa's penthouse, the movie doesn't end so much as wind down.)

  • Pedro Almodovar's tamest, slickest feature (1988) is an entertaining melodramatic farce but a far cry from the kinky irreverence of his earlier work... The results are high-spirited, with nice ensemble work from Almodovar's team of regulars, but the playlike structure (originally derived from Cocteau's The Human Voice but drastically reworked) is disappointingly conventional.

  • Some bits, like the spiked gazpacho, serve as plot devices but fail to become jokes; others, e.g. Pepa repeatedly hailing the same "mambo" cab, never build or expand, as if the repetition itself is meant to suffice. I can see why this became an arthouse sensation at the time—energetic cast, droll campiness, Almodóvar's singular design sense—and the movie is consistently, mildly enjoyable. It just never achieves lift-off.

  • Almodóvar tried to make a mainstream farce and succeeded beyond the dreams of, say, Billy Wilder—a Hollywood filmmaker he admires for "revealing a sordid society through the most delicious light comedies." Women doesn't meet that standard; it's more like The Big Chill with a bitter taste. But it does have a plot right out of some beloved old screwball comedy.

  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film made immediately after the stunning two-fisted provocation of Matador and Law of Desire, is a frothy gem, praiseworthy for the fact that it steps back from its potential and easily effected seriousness. It treats melodrama as a point departure, lightly alluding to its conventions as a road deliberately not taken.

  • It isn’t as provocative as the Almodovar films that immediately preceded it (LAW OF DESIRE, MATADOR, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?), yet it reflects a breathtaking fluency in all aspects of cinematic art that hadn’t been achieved to such a degree in his work until then. WOMEN is gorgeously designed; the costumes, decors, and camera movements are not only impressive on their own, they interact sumptuously.

  • Almodovar frames his volatile characters as if they’re pieces of a pop collage made of saturated magazine ads. By using backdrops that resemble American television sound stages of the 1950s and 60s, Almodovar creates a world of eccentricity marked by charming and calculated artificiality.

  • Although I once heard Almodóvar say that his script for Women on the Verge was inspired by Jean Cocteau’s monologue play The Human Voice, humor clearly won out over tragedy when he sat down to write. In any event, as in all good comedy, his characters take their misfortunes seriously and don’t try to be funny, which enhances the comic effect.

  • A love letter to cinema and post-Franco Spain, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is an ebullient comedy propelled at a manic clip, drenched in colors so rich they seem edible. That so many of story's antics are mordant in nature is a testament to writer-director Pedro Almodóvar's skewed sensibilities, which posit that the aesthetically trashy and morally suspect are as endemic to the pleasures of life as the elegant and ethical.

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