An engaging, bubbly romantic comedy, “What Do Women Laugh About?” presses most of the right feel-good buttons. With a busy script by Spain’s top comedy team — responsible for “Mouth to Mouth” and “Love Can Seriously Damage Your Health” — Joaquin Oristrell’s helming debut has delightful moments and vibrant perfs, while its knowing glance at stereotypes gives it an edge over much of the competition. Free of the calculated slickness of the pics of director Manuel Gomez Pereira, for whom Oristrell scripts, “Women” has done solid B.O. at home, and could travel with the right push.
The story is narrated from the p.o.v. of 15-year-old Domingo (Daniel Perez Prada), who tells us we are going to hear the story of his summer of ’96. This allows for some amusing reflections on Spanish society in the ’90s, but is really the frame for the stories of his ingenuous, daydreaming mother, Luci (Veronica Forque), and his two aunts, insecure wannabe actress Graci (Candela Pena) and brash blonde Mari (Adriana Ozores). The sisters form a comedy trio called the Three Graces.
Luci’s husband, Carlos (Jordi Bosch), is killed by a speeding car while he is on his way to an adulterous rendezvous. She is grief-stricken, and the sisters decide to go to the holiday resort of Benidorm (with Domingo in tow) and have some fun. The white-suited ghost of Carlos periodically reappears at Luci’s side — a corny device that’s handled well, particularly after she realizes that he was unfaithful to her 34 times during their marriage. She decides to risk it with a good-looking but shy Italian, Salvatore (Francois-Eric Gendran).
Domingo’s realization that it was Salvatore’s car that hit his father lends the necessary touch of drama. Meanwhile, his aunts are busy trying to sort out their own lives — Graci with delivery man-cum-thief Victor (Jorge Sanz), and Mari with Claudio (wonderfully and greasily played by Angel de Andres Lopez), another faithless husband who is comically devastated when he finds his wife has a lover.
There’s a lot of material on offer here, but it’s expertly handled and paced. Pic switches effortlessly between comedy and romance, and dialogue is thick with nice soundbites (“He’s so radical, he’s seen ‘Trainspotting’ 28 times”; “I need to be in love — if not, all I feel is 90 kilos of meat on top of me”). Only flaws are minor ones: conventional shots of Spanish beaches, and an over-reliance on romantic tunes to create mood. Pic’s colors are sunny and brash , a conscious echo of ’60s cinematic styles.