Review: ‘My Name Is Juani’

Veteran Catalan director Biga Luna makes an audacious attempt to pin down a new Spanish archetype in "My Name is Juani" -- with mixed results. A high-energy yarn about a chick from the sticks who wants to be in movies, pic tries to articulate the Spanish Zeitgeist visually, but after finding its dazzling form, it forgets to invest the content with anything original.

Veteran Catalan director Biga Luna makes an audacious attempt to pin down a new Spanish archetype in “My Name is Juani” — with mixed results. A high-energy yarn about a chick from the sticks who wants to be in movies, pic tries to articulate the Spanish Zeitgeist visually, but after finding its dazzling form, it forgets to invest the content with anything original. Result looks like a well-made, over-extended pop promo. Decent home B.O. for this Oct. 20 release indicates local auds identify with Juani; offshore, Luna’s rep will have to drive this one.

Feisty Juani (Veronica Echegui) lives at home with her loser father (Jose Chaves) and stoic mother (Mercedes Hoyos). She works as a checkout girl in an electronics store in the Spanish provinces. Her gorilla-like b.f., Jonah (Dani Martin) has his mind on cars, sex and jealousy. Juani’s best friend Vani (Laya Marti), who is obsessed with having a boob job, goes out with Nacho (Gorka Lasaosa). The tedium of pueblo existence is well-rendered.

When Vani is violently attacked by Nacho, and Juani finds Jonah having sex with another girl, Vani and Juani head to Madrid, where (following a terrific sequence celebrating their delight at having escaped from their home town), they follow different paths. Vani falls in love, while Juani falls into the clutches of a slimeball film producer.

Like the culture it is scrutinizing, pic emphasizes style over substance. While sympathizing with the kids’ existential difficulties — poor jobs, little money, no prospects, a ruthless society — it fails to help viewers empathize with the kids themselves.

Debutante Echegui revels in the role of the raspy-voiced, short-skirted and irrepressibly vulgar Juani, the character who comes closest to winning viewers’ hearts.

Pic is mostly memorable for its digital wizardry (especially in a couple of effective dream sequences). Music is an ear-splitting potpourri of self-consciously contempo fare.

My Name Is Juani

Spain

Production

A Manga Films release of a Media Films, Virgili Films production, in association with TVE, TVC. (International sales: Manga, Barcelona.) Executive producers, Bigas Luna, Luis de Val. Directed by Bigas Luna. Screenplay, Luna, Chaves Gastaldo.

Crew

Camera (color), Albert Pascual; editor, Jaume Marti; art director, Chu Uroz; sound (Dolby Digital), Ferran Mengod. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, Nov. 3, 2006. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Veronica Echegui, Laya Marti, Dani Martin, Gorka Lasaosa, Jose Chaves, Mercedes Hoyos, Marcos Campos, Ferran Madico, Joana Lopez.
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