Put a Man in Your Life" is a defiantly populist, bright and sharp-eyed screwball comedy with supernatural "Ghost"-ly overtones. Built around a sex-reversal theme that has kept auds amused on and off since the 16th century, pic is the work of a debut femme helmer, Eva Lesmes. The deftly handled gags, crafty feminist angles and strong contempo feel lift it above the local competition, and the film has already perked offshore distribution interest.

Put a Man in Your Life” is a defiantly populist, bright and sharp-eyed screwball comedy with supernatural “Ghost”-ly overtones. Built around a sex-reversal theme that has kept auds amused on and off since the 16th century, pic is the work of a debut femme helmer, Eva Lesmes. The deftly handled gags, crafty feminist angles and strong contempo feel lift it above the local competition, and the film has already perked offshore distribution interest.

Unbelievably macho soccer manager Juan Antonio (Toni Canto) arrives at a hotel for the biggest game of his career — against Real Madrid — and there runs into a femme pop group in residence. One of its members, Belinda (Cristina Marcos), is soon to marry the hotel’s manager, Eduardo (Pere Ponce). Meanwhile, Juan Antonio’s ex-wife, Agatha (Anabel Alonso), is a clairvoyant who warns him she’s seen him dead in a vision.

One night, Belinda and Juan Antonio dive into the hotel pool and knock heads. “I think we’re dead,” he says, as they watch their bodies. In fact, through a process that pic never fully explains, they’ve swapped sexes. The stage is set for plenty of fun, with Ponce especially extending his comic range as the nervous bridegroom on whose shoulders the world has suddenly collapsed.

Though pic is, finally, a one-joke movie, it develops that joke in unexpected and enjoyable ways — such as how the soccer team becomes successful now that the manager is a “woman” — without probing too deeply into hot gender questions.

The sex-swap pair agree to help one another with their respective problems: “Belinda,” for example, communicates frantically with “Juan Antonio” — who now knows nothing about soccer — during a training session. The pace slows, however, with the far-fetched attempts to return the pair to their original selves, with a few quasi-philosophical questions on the nature of unhappiness thrown in.

Pic is slightly unbalanced by fact that Marcos — one of the few Spanish actresses with the face and figure to play comedy successfully — attacks her role of “Belinda” with more gusto than Canto, who is content to lapse into limp-wristed mannerisms as “Antonio.” The clairvoyant sideplot, too, seems tacked on in an attempt to rationalize what is, after all, pure fantasy. But pic is sufficiently well scripted and well edited to ride over such niggles.

Put a Man in Your Life

(PON UN HOMBRE EN TU VIDA)

Production

(SPANISH) A Columbia TriStar Films de Espana release (in Spain) of an Aurum Prods./Cristal PC/Desafio Prods. production, with the collaboration of Antena 3 and Canal Plus Espana. (International sales: Lider Films, Madrid.) Produced by Cesar Benitez. Directed by Eva Lesmes. Screenplay, Luis Marias, Joaquin Oristrell, Lesmes. Camera (color), Juan Amoros; editor, Guillermo Represa; music, Jose Manuel Pagan; art direction, Carlos Dorremochea; costume design, Hugo Mezcua; sound (Dolby), Ivan Marin; associate producers, Jose Luis Moya, Ramon Moya. Reviewed at Real Cinema, Madrid, Sept. 15, 1996. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Belinda ... Cristina Marcos Juan Antonio ... Toni Canto Eduardo ... Pere Ponce Agatha ... Anabel Alonso
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