A wealthy businessman hires a famous filmmaker to help make a smash hit film.
‘Official Competition’ is a Spanish movie that sets out to satirise the moviemaking business and the shallowness and vanity of those involved in the industry. It begins with an elderly, wealthy man ruminating on his legacy, wanting to leave something behind for the world to remember him by. When his assistant suggests financing a movie adaptation of an award winning novel, with an award winning director and renowned actors, he gets on board, hiring the eccentric Palme d’Or winner Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) to helm the film. Given it’s ‘behind the curtain’ approach, it will likely play better with those either familiar with the industry or regular movie watchers – I consider myself part of the second sect and as a result really enjoyed this!
The screenplay being adapted centres on two brothers coming to terms with the death of their parents in a car crash, caused by one of the brothers drink driving. Cuevas hires celebrated stage actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez) and worldwide movie star Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) to play the brothers, and their off-set relationship to a degree mimics that of the characters they’ve been hired to play. They both have wildly differing methods and attitudes to acting, which coupled with Cuevas’s unorthodox rehearsing techniques (a particularly funny sequence has the two men reading lines with a giant boulder precariously held above them by a crane), leads to regular clashes as they struggle to get on the same page. Torres believes Rivero is a sellout for appearing in Hollywood movies, whereas Rivero thinks that Torres is pompous and up himself, a man who thinks acting in ‘worthy’ productions makes him better than Rivero. The reality is that both are more similar than they care to admit.
What really makes ‘Official Competition’ work though is the humour that permeates every aspect of the screenplay, with the trio of leading actors all superb and I enjoyed that the movie really leans into the absurdity – an absurdity that has its roots in reality (if you read about some of the odd methods used by directors and actors over the years anyway!). ‘Official Competition’ might struggle to appeal outside its niche, but for the niche its aimed at it works very well indeed.
Directed By: Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn
Starring: Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez, José Luis Gómez and Manolo Solo