Miguel Albaladejo’s four previous movies have established him as a helmer of low-key, well-observed and underrated comedies, the best being “Ten Days Without Love” (2000). Revenge yarn “Rancour” — his first solo-scripted film — takes him into more dramatic territory, with mixed results. Despite strong perfs, an engagingly down-to-earth storyline, and plenty of human warmth, the subject matter is sometimes less than plausible. Released at the end of May, pic has been well-received by home crix and done solid business — partly because it’s the feature debut of popular Spanish singer Lolita. Offshore, this one looks unlikely to stray far beyond standard Hispanic territories.
Down-at-heel singer, the damaged but gutsy Chelo (Lolita) arrives at a resort on Spain’s east coast for the summer season to play in a band. She bumps into Cuban beach bum Toni (Jorge Perugorria), her lover from years gone by and a rogue with a shady criminal past. Toni works hiring out paddle boats. He goes out with the young Esther (Elena Anaya), a relationship disapproved of by her policeman brother, Marcos (Roberto Hernandez).
For reasons not yet clear, Chelo decides get revenge on Toni for his bad behavior years before. She starts by calling schoolteacher Natalia (Mar Regueras) and telling her to come and visit with Miguel Angel (Noe Alcazar), Natalia’s son by Toni from a one-night stand. Meanwhile, policeman Marcos strikes up a relationship with Chelo — presumably also to get back at Toni, for dating his sister (the motivation here is distinctly wobbly).As passions rise, the final, farcical scene, involving pistol and knives, is beautifully witty. Here, Albaladejo is at his best — keeping his eye on exactly how real people would behave under extreme emotional circumstances.
Pic is better in its playing than its plausibility. Lolita simply makes slight adjustments to her fiery public persona to create the entertainingly ballsy, heavy drinking, coke-sniffing Chelo, who manages to retain the viewer’s sympathy despite all the Machiavellian plotting.
Perugorria tries to prevent the crude Toni from becoming merely repugnant by playing up his joie de vivre and silver tongue, but the character never becomes multi-dimensional. Other perfs are solid.
However, the script has some serious holes. The relationship between Toni and Esther never takes off, and Natalia’s simpering attitude toward the man who made her pregnant and then abandoned her makes her seem just dumb.
Still, the kitsch, chaotic side of Spanish low-budget beach holidays is well-captured, and Lolita’s musical interludes, though plentiful, are not overdone. Most successful is a bleeding heart rendition of the Joan Manuel Serrat classic, “Mediterraneo.”