Director Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez’s sequel to 1995’s critically acclaimed “Sighs of Spain (and Portugal)” is an enjoyably offbeat but hit-and-miss attack on the multiple failings of contemporary Spanish society as experienced by two good-natured rogues. Such characters, known as picaros, are a big part of Spanish culture but are not especially exportable, leaving offshore interest potentially weak.
Smooth-talking idealist Juan (Juan Luis Galiardo) and innocent Pepe (Juan Echanove) have returned to Spain with their respective partners, Angelica (Rosa Maria Sarda) and Carmela (the deeply sexy Neus Asensi). Living in abject poverty and in love with the same woman, Juan and Pepe are about to commit suicide.
Suddenly a “people TV” host, Lanzagorta (superbly slimy Javier Gurruchaga), bursts through the door and invites them onto his show, “There’s Always a Right Way.” Their story is told through a series of docudrama flashbacks in the TV studio.
TV’s capacity to turn suffering into spectacle is pic’s prime target, as the trials of Juan and Pepe in the months since their return are paraded before us. Cynicism, corruption and indifference are seen as the moral and political norms. With the arrival of Bulgarian immigrant Milena (Adriana Davidova) the tone becomes softer: The best scene in the movie has Juan teaching Pepe how to seduce Milena, who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Pic’s strongest element is the exuberant (and psychologically implausible) relationship between Juan and Pepe. The two thesps have a talent for caricature, striking sparks off each other in a way that is easy to admire but hard to love. Blame the film’s episodic, rambling structure, with Garcia Sanchez and vet scripter Rafael Azcona more concerned with pressing home a social point than with warming auds to the characters.
Though admirable in its satirical intentions, pic leaves the feeling that the evils of a materialistic society are too wide-ranging to be adequately dealt with here. Tech credits are excellent, with Madrid’s poorer neighborhoods tellingly brought to life.