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    My Big Night Is a Party Worth Attending

    GaryKramerbyRyanBrandenbergThe new comedy My Big Night, directed by Spanish enfant terrible Álex de la Iglesia, has all the manic energy of a Pedro Almodóvar farce. This bubbly, champagne-infused piffle, which opens April 15 at the Roxie, begins with a high-energy dance number. The performers are staging a New Year’s Eve 2016 party two months early. The music is loud, the gowned and tuxedoed audience of extras are having a good time, and then, all of a sudden, a crane drops and kills a man at one of the tables.

    The unfortunate incident is the first of many problems in this blackly comic film that the producers and performers encounter. The cast and crew have been stuck in the studio for ten straight days, pretending to have fun, and everyone’s nerves are getting frayed. Outside the studio, an angry mob of striking workers are creating a war zone, even targeting the lesbians who are housed outside in the station’s control van.

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    Inside, the evening’s presenters, Roberto (Hugo Silva) and Cristina (Carolina Bang), are lovers who are fighting to upstage one another. Their mischief and put-downs are amusing as they get nastier and nastier towards one another.

    Their behavior is tame compared to Yuri’s (Carlos Areces). He is planning to have his adoptive father, Alphonso (Spanish musical legend Raphael), bumped off by Oscar (Jaime Ordonez). Unfortunately, Oscar is easily distracted, and, it turns out, he is a big fan of Alphonso’s, which complicates his mission.

    Alphonso is not on his best behavior, either. He has it in for Adanne (Mario Casas), a much younger, pretty boy singer who may steal his headliner spot. A hilarious exchange between the rivals involves Alphonso helping–or is it torturing?–Adanne to get something out of the younger man’s eye.

    Adanne, however, has other troubles. A female extra is planning to blackmail him, having orally procured a vial of his semen in his dressing room. When other extras in the production get wind of her plan, they conspire to get in on the semen stealing.

    One of the few happy people is José (Pepón Nieto), an unemployed man who is excited to get a job as an extra in the New Year’s Eve party audience following the death of the man hit by the crane. He is seated at a table with Paloma (Blanca Súarez), a fun-loving party girl who is turned on by scars. She sports a few herself, and as José learns more about Paloma, he realizes she may be bad luck; everyone around her suffers an unpleasant fate. It may be a total coincidence that Roberto, the host, is hit in the face with a rubber ball (shot into the studio by the strikers outside), but it does not bode well for José, who may be falling in love with this attractive stranger he is forced to kiss on cue.

    De la Iglesia’s effervescent film zips back and forth between these various characters, who interrupt their mini-dramas from time to time to applaud, dance a conga, or act happy. The storylines generate several comic moments as secrets and lies are told and characters exhibit some larger than life egos. That said, if viewers find some of the segments growing tiresome, or strained, it is only a matter of time before the next fabulous dance number featuring bright, vivid costumes begins.

    Adanne’s song “Firefighter” is a particular highlight, with the swoon-inducing Casas gyrating his hips erotically to the point of parody in a camp as all get out production number. Not to be outdone, Raphael playfully sends-up his self-image as the fragile, ego-centric Alphonso, such as when he prepares to perform by sealing himself in a beauty machine, or during his solo on stage.

    If My Big Night is aggressively mocking its show-biz types, it is not as if the self-inflated singers, and career-hungry presenters are not already prime targets for satire. The whole ersatz nature of the production–from the fake smiles on the guests to the fake food on the table–suggest forced fun. But de la Iglesia seems to be having a grand time creating this wild spectacle, even if some of it seems, well, forced.

    Audiences will enjoy My Big Night too, especially when the film launches its secret comic weapon: José’s mother (Terele Pavez). Carrying a large cross (taken from her husband’s coffin), this crazy lady provides much of the film’s heart and wisdom. She makes this party worth attending.

    © 2016 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer