Hot young Chilean novelist Alberto Fuguet had a big hit at home with “For Rent,” his debut in the director’s seat and one of the most successful local productions of 2005. But what plays as fresh and edgy in Santiago won’t have the same impact abroad, where similar themes about idealistic thirtysomethings debating whether growing up means selling out have been hashed over in myriad ways. Trimming the over-long running time would help, although it’s unlikely any but Pan-American fests will be taking a look.
During a friendly argument about commercial success versus artistic integrity, music student Gaston (Luciano Cruz-Coke) vociferously declares he will never be seduced by the lure of financial gain. His art will be pure, although when pressed to score his cousin’s low budget student pic “Killer Ants” he reluctantly agrees.
Fifteen years later, Gaston returns to Chile after six years in New York. During his time away, close friend Julian Balbo (Felipe Braun) has become an international success on the pop music scene, while Gaston has barely composed at all. He reconnects with former g.f. Cordelia (Ignacia Allamand), but she too is no longer the free-wheeling spirit of their college days, and, under pressure to earn a living, Gaston agrees to take a job with his father’s real estate company, where he half-heartedly attempts to rent apartments to the nouveaux riches.
By the end, when preconceptions are rather heavy-handedly revealed to be wildly inaccurate, sympathy for Gaston’s stubborn idealism has worn thin. Although well played by Cruz-Coke, Gaston appears to be a grown up Holden Caulfield with a Peter Pan complex.
Fuguet uses B&W clips from his invented “Killer Ants” as a counterpoint to, and commentary on, the action. More, however, could have been made of the mock horror film’s premise that the carnivorous creatures only eat people who are unable to express love.
A scene of Gaston on a bus alone at night, an acoustic guitar song on the soundtrack, feels lifted from any number of similarly themed pics.
Early, college-era section is shot with deliberate graininess, switching to sharper images; oftentimes it appears as if Fuguet and d.p. Jorge Gonzales have given the whole a stone-washed appearance. Pleasant soundtrack has unsurprisingly been a spin-off success at home.