Directed by: Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn
Written by: Mariano Cohn, Andrés Duprat, Gastón Duprat
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez, José Luis Gómez, Irene Escolar
The creation of film comes from many origins, but in most cases, it happens with the desire to either make money or raise the prestige of someone involved in financing the project. It may be the most cynical way to view the process but most likely the one bearing the most truth. This proves to be one of the many things Official Competition seeks to highlight as well as make fun of in its approach to satirizing the industry and when you have the three actors at their disposal as they do in this feature it leads to something special.
Nearing the end of his life and wanting to be remembered for shepherding something eternal, multi-millionaire, Humberto Suárez (José Luis Gómez) wants to finance a film and bring the very best together to create a masterpiece. That includes hiring director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), esteemed stage actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez), and Hollywood star Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas). Bringing this trio together causes tension with Lola’s eccentric directing style and the disdain of the two leading men together in one project.
The greatness embodied by Official Competition comes from how anyone can come in and enjoy the ridiculousness on display, but those who operate within the industry can appreciate the zaniness even more. It opts to satirize the very accurate feelings many have who work in these spaces in the film world, which allows for a wonderful clash and a highly entertaining story. It works because it comes with a sense of fresh air and honesty behind how the sausage gets made in the film world; where passion gets trumped by the selfish needs to be recognized for legacy purposes. It all comes together in a hilarious film that allows for some light ribbing and tremendous performances by all involved.
Each of the characters in this film comes in with their own ego to feed, whether it be the financier of the film wishing to leave this production as part of his legacy, the director harping on her methods, and the actors arrogant in perceiving they have reached more success than the other. It all culminates in a wonderful mess that allows for some gut-busting scenes and allows for larger discussions about whether these methods remain necessary.
The biggest highlight, as she is for every film she appears in is Penélope Cruz. With the film beginning with her face and ending with her voice, she moves the film along and simply dazzles in this role. She has this ridiculous wig and portrays the very eccentric Lola, who has her methods and simply will not stray away from them because she knows what works best. The carte blanche she receives in making this film works allows for some wild exercises she puts these actors through to a hilarious extreme. The boulder scene alone shows the lengths directors will go to in order to get what they need from their actors in a take. Another with an industrial shredder will make those who love awards even shed a tear, but her methods have some poignancy even if it feels like complete madness when coming from Lola, which makes those scenes incredible. She both shapes the two men and punishes them for their methods in a way that can be seen as admirable.
Then you have the two actors who represent the two sides of the spectrum in success in the acting world, one where you are valiantly respected and not a star like Iván or the opposite in Félix. Bringing them together for a project surely had to be known would invite nothing but chaos and this film very much well knows it. They go head-to-head on their tactics, what they have achieved, and what will work best for the film. It even slightly mirrors the subject matter of the film they are making, which makes for some incredible scenes between the pair. It certainly helps when you have Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez portraying these characters as they both fully dive in and buy into what these two men represent in the industry. The push and pull of the love, respect, and disdain they ebb and flow from having with each other allow for some blistering moments that truly summarize who they are.
Everything this film has to offer comes with incredible hilarity to an impeccable degree in how it wants to satirize its industry and the individuals that make it run. Lola stands as the wild card in every scene because you have no idea where she will go next and it makes for completely unforgettable moments in this feature. Something that feels unique and incredibly enjoyable as it uses comedy as a weapon and a mirror for all of us to enjoy. The three actors at the helm do some incredible work here and help display the absurdity and truth this film wants to cut through in the best of ways.