As sugary and insubstantial as a lollipop, Maryse Sistach’s “Emma’s Bra” is the Mexican helmer’s least significant film to date — a cutesy bit of nostalgia about a teen girl’s coming of age in the early ’60s, centered around one very important brassiere. If this is a date movie, it’s one to which gals will drag their guys kicking and screaming; vid and other ancillary are far more likely money streams for a pic that won’t travel past major Latin American markets.
Pic certainly marks a disheartening retreat for Sistach from her emphatic social and artistic statements, especially in the tough “Violet Perfume” and “The Girl on the Stone.” (Latter pic also featured “Bra’s” perky star, Sofia Espinosa.) Right when Sistach would seem to be on the cusp of breaking out to a larger international reception, “Emma’s Bra” works over a minor tale that would fit into a comfortable hour on Mexican TV — all arch comic touches, overacting and memories of a time and place that will mean nada to a younger aud.
Opening black-and-white passage, in which a teary Emma (Espinosa) and her parents (Marco Trevino and Sistach regular Arcelia Ramirez) see off older daughter Cecilia (busy thesp Ximena Sarinana) at the airport for an extended stay in Paris, is rich with atmospherics seemingly out of a Michael Curtiz movie. In a cloying device to compel aud sympathy, Emma addresses the camera and speaks of the film’s events from her adult perspective: “This was 1962, and things were going to change.”
Setting up a lively if calculated story about a girl’s budding sexuality running parallel with the pop explosions of the new decade, “Emma’s Bra” dabbles in light domestic sitcom material with little style or impact. There are bits with father, a sort of Kaufman and Hart character who’s forever coming up with new toys he expects will sell like hotcakes (latest is, of all things, an incubator for baby chicks). There are little episodes involving Emma going to school with a boy (Miguel Najera) who walks so fast she can only keep up on a bike.
And there is the central drama, as it were, involving Emma feeling her breasts growing just as her mother is feeling breast lumps, triggering fears of cancer.
The pieces never amount to much, and certainly don’t cohere into a fully wrought movie. From the underfed production design (by Sistach) to a repetitive sound effect during comic moments, a certain lack of good judgment eats away at what might have been at least a sweet little morsel of a film.
Espinosa, whose presence dominates pic from start to finish, is urged to mug for the camera and proves all too willing; more problematic are the moments of direct address, when she plays the older Emma without an ounce of credibility.