The Cross,” the latest pic from veteran Argentine helmer and Cannes vet Alejandro Agresti, is a lightweight comedy that strays far from the sociopolitical concerns of Agresti’s previous films. This slight tale of a booze-ridden film critic’s disintegrating personal and professional life is occasionally funny, but the lead character is an aggressively unlikable type, and his nonstop rants become downright irritating by the second half of the film. As usual with Agresti, this is unquestionably a festival title that will likely travel widely on the circuit but will not find favor with auds elsewhere.
At the start, Alfredo (Norman Briski), a seriously unhappy middle-aged film scribe, is in big trouble with management at his newspaper, and he and his editor get embroiled in a heated argument about the declining quality of his reviewing skills. The editor attributes the fall-off to Alfredo’s home life, which has been in tatters ever since his wife and two daughters walked out on him. By the end of the argument, Alfredo no longer has a job, and that sends him even further into a boozy depression.
For the first 45 minutes, Alfredo spends a lot of time wandering around Buenos Aires raging against the world to anyone who will listen. His wife, Claudia (Laura Melillo), dumped Alfredo in favor of a celebrated painter, Pablo (Carlos Roffe), and Alfredo desperately tries to convince Claudia that she has taken up with a real cad. She is not moved by his rather pathetic tirade against Pablo. Alfredo then comes up with the bright idea of calling up Pablo’s old girlfriends in an effort to uncover some dirt on the guy who’s broken up his marriage.
He eventually connects with Eloisa (Mirta Busnelli), one of Pablo’s old flames, and, when Alfredo meets her, he pretends to be his nemesis. They then kick off a strange relationship that consists of Alfredo frequently hurling abuse at Eloisa, denying he’s Pablo, then pretending to be Pablo, and generally acting like a bit of a nut.
Some of the comic scenes work in an offbeat way, and there are some inspired laugh lines. But in the end, Alfredo’s relentless self-absorption throws a wet towel on much of the comic potential here. Agresti serves up an uneven mix of lowbrow farce and midlife-crisis drama that fails to satisfy on either count.
Briski manages to make Alfredo’s depression at least seem entertaining, but Agresti’s script doesn’t make it easy to empathize with the rogue. Busnelli is strangely over-the-top as Eloisa, while Roffe and Melillo have relatively small roles.
Paul Van Brugge’s score consists of a reasonably pleasant set of Latin-flavored jazz instrumentals.