The Wrong Side of the Bed

A perfectly calibrated comedy, "The Wrong Side of Bed" is a 180-degree stylistic turn for helmer Emilio Martinez-Lazar. A nicely contempo mood, engaging characters, solid perfs, and witty scripting are let down by over-length and some turgid tunes. A surprise B.O. success in its initial frames locally, pic took several awards at the Malaga fest.

With:
With: Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo, Natalia Verbeke, Alberto San Juan, Maria Esteve, Ramon Barea, Nathalie Poza.

A charming, sexy, perfectly calibrated comedy — which also reps the unheralded return of that cinematic dodo, the Spanish musical — “The Wrong Side of Bed” is a 180-degree stylistic turnaround for helmer Emilio Martinez-Lazaro, whose last pic (“His Master’s Voice”) was a gritty take on Basque terrorism. A nicely contempo mood, engaging characters energized by solid perfs from a good-looking, high-profile young cast, and genuinely witty scripting are let down only by over-length and some generally turgid tunes. The onscreen fun thesps seem to be having is infectious, with the public responding to make this a surprise B.O. success in its initial frames locally. Pic took best film, director and audience awards at the Malaga fest in May.

Romantic Paula (Natalia Verbeke, from “Jump Tomorrow” and Oscar nominee “Son of the Bride”) leaves good-hearted slob Pedro (Guillermo Toledo), telling him she’s in love with someone else. The someone else, as Pedro is slow to discover, is his best buddy, the Machiavellian Javier (Ernesto Alterio), b.f. of Sonia (Paz Vega). Soon, Pedro is spying on Paula with the help of private detective Sagaz (underrated Ramon Barea, in a memorable comic turn).

Paula starts to cool toward Javier as it becomes clear he has no plans to leave Sonia; meanwhile, Javier tries to fix Pedro up with the psychotic Pilar (Maria Esteve). Inevitably, Pedro ends up getting it on with Sonia.

Matters become more complex when Sonia tells Javier she’s stayed overnight with Pedro; but Pedro denies it when asked by Javier. Javier starts to believe Sonia is having a relationship with a lesbian actress, Lucia (Nathalie Poza).

Plot is xeroxed from the farce how-to handbook, but the freshness of the characterization and intelligence of the structure skip the pic dexterously from one nicely-wrought scene to another. There is a strong sense of ensemble, with fine dialogue generally delivered by alert thesps at a perfect pace, with Toledo standing out as Pedro.

Alberto San Juan, playing a loudmouthed cab driver, has only a couple of scenes, but stamps his personality on the film, and the kooky-faced Esteve’s comic potential is finally tapped properly. Verbeke and Vega are sexy and vibrant throughout; Alterio, however, struggles to fully exploit his more complex character.

With a couple of exceptions, the ’80s-inspired songs lack the grace and spark of the rest of film, and always bring the action to a frustrating pause. Though they give it the old college try, all of the thesps are lacking in great vocal chords, while Pedro Berdayes’ choreography, intended to look free, often just looks hit and miss. Juan Molina Temboury’s light pastel hues are just right for the bright and breezy tone.

The Wrong Side of the Bed

Spain

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. (Spain) release of a Telespan Producciones, Impala, Tele 5 production, in association with Via Digital. (International sales: Tele 5, Madrid.) Produced by Tomas Cimadevilla, Jose Sainz de Vicuna. Directed by Emilio Martinez-Lazaro. Screenplay, David Serrano.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Juan Molina Temboury; editor, Angel Hernandez-Zoido; music, Roque Banos; art director, Julio Torrecilla; sound (Dolby Digital), Gilles Ortion; choreographer, Pedro Berdayes. Reviewed at Cine Acteon, Madrid, July 1, 2002. (In Malaga Film Festival.) Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Ernesto Alterio, Paz Vega, Guillermo Toledo, Natalia Verbeke, Alberto San Juan, Maria Esteve, Ramon Barea, Nathalie Poza.

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