Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) (R)
Have you ever had one of those days? The days when everything seems to go wrong and oddity is laid upon oddity? Some day you could look back on it and laugh, but for the present, it's just stressful and emotional.
This is the kind of day that every character in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" is having. It starts out as semi-normal and floods into a full-fledged, beautiful nightmare. There are funny moments, there are weird moments, and there are sad moments; but the arc of the picture is just its enjoyability.
Pepa (Carmen Maura) is breaking up with her lover. They have come to the point where the realize that they don't love each other anymore...well, he doesn't love her at any rate. Sickened by the idea of suddenly being alone, Pepa takes a few too many sleeping pills and misses her alarms...there are several clocks in her bedroom. Her now ex-lover Ivan is already at their work, doing voice-overs for a television show that he and Pepa act in. He calls her and lets her know that he's thinking about her and this is when she wakes up from her stupor.
Stumbling over to the phone, she picks up too late—he's already hung up. For the rest of the movie, Pepa is trying to catch up with Ivan, a man whose influence in and out of the bedroom seems to spread through the entirety of Madrid.
Pedro Almodóvar, the writer and director, obviously has a love affair with film, because the scenes shot where Pepa and Ivan work are filled with care and a coy affection.
It's not until the end of the movie that you truly grasp the enormity of the picture you are watching. People meet people, conversations are had, meetings are convened; and it all links together. It's a very interesting possible interpretation on how we influence each other's lives.
Then again, the movie is really saying that all this madness was caused by a man, and who needs a man? Feminist because it doesn't try to glorify women—the film shows them as emotional wrecks—"Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" manages to make every character feel deeply human, if a tad bit over-exaggerated.
What's the fun in watching boring people interact with each other? I'll tell you, nowhere. It's no fun.
More than a political statement, Almodóvar is just trying to make a fun movie, and this is very much fun.
Inside the fun there is emotional growth, gazpacho, beds on fire (literally), stuttering sons, drugged side-characters, virgins, guns, terrorists, and above all women on the verge of a...well, you get the point.
This is one fun movie. There's just no escaping that.
What it becomes, more so than just fun, is somehow relatable. We feel for Pepa and her co-horts just as we come to despise Ivan, the quintessential sleazy, good-for-nothing man. Irrationality runs deeply in the film, just as self-absorbance does. This is a group of self-centered people...but don't worry, they come to think of others.
At the movie's ending, which zooms out at just the right moment, you sit back and you think: What can I find that was wrong with that movie? (At least, that's if your super critical and have no sense of joy) I'm drawing a blank. Surely, it's not the most original, the most daring, the most evocative, or even the funniest movie I'ver ever seen; yet it's an intimate look inside of woman's chaotic life and the strife surrounding her. We can find humor in her actions, love in her words, spite in her gestures, vulnerability in her facade, uncaring in her dealings...she's an imperfect character, perfectly created. She is a woman.
I'll leave you with the link to a recipe for gazpacho, because after seeing the movie, I sure want some.
Recipe for Gazpacho
Posted by Micah Jones