December 13, 2013
What’s the true meaning of kiss and tell?
Juan (Walter Cornás) is in his early thirties and not having the best of times. He’s just split up with his girlfriend, hasn’t seen his best friends in quite a while, and has been working for too long in a place he doesn’t really enjoy. No wonder total boredom has invaded his life. In fact, at times it seems there’s no real way out. However, he knows things have to change as soon as possible.
That’s why he decides to spend a few nights at Goldstein’s (Gastón Pauls), one of his most reliable friends and one hell of a pot smoker. They share some joints, talk about their moods, sentimental lives and their plans for today and tomorrow. Soon, Juan rents a small apartment and begins to see his other friends too. He has plenty of laughs and spends quality time with them. Things seem to be getting better.
That is, until one day his boss (Eduardo Blanco) gives him a task to be carried out with Luciana (Carla Quevedo), a co-worker he can barely stand. He really feels she’s kind of dumb and a total pain in the neck. Yet, as days go by, he starts to have different feelings for her. Actually, he begins to fall in love. So now new queries come up: is he ready for a new relationship? Does he truly want a girlfriend? Most important, does she even like him enough?
20.000 besos (20,000 Kisses), directed by Sebastián De Caro and co-written with Sebastián Rotstein, is a somewhat unusual feature. It’s a well-executed dramatic comedy with a small, appropriate dose of romance. More than anything else, it portrays that uncertain period in which you have to realize you just can’t keep being a late adolescent anymore, but a full grown adult with the corresponding responsibilities. Of all things, De Caro and Rotstein are interested in the nature of relationship, love and desire, be it a one-night stand, a brief romance or a steady relationship. And friendship, of course.
Fortunately, the filmmakers do not seek enlightening truths about the characters, their joys and tribulations. Instead, they show the state of things, explore underlying tensions and follow their characters as they do what they do. Sometimes they even hint at why they do what they do, but never cast a clinical eye on it. Everything is permeated by much welcome humour, the kind of humour you find in your everyday life, if you will. Deliberately and ably light-weighted, 20.000 besos is a film that knows where it’s going. Moreover, its seemingly unelaborate cinematography and its pleasurable soundtrack set the right tone for the best scenes.
On the minus side, there are some very visible script problems. While the characters of Juan, Goldstein and Luciana are well defined and do have enough nuances, the others are not much more than figurines who utter lines here and there. It’s hard to care about them because they barely exist. It’s pretty clear that the film focuses on Juan (and eventually on Goldstein, smartly played by Pauls), but better supporting characters would have painted a richer canvas. Granted, the idea of las hadas (the fairies), a group of three giddy, empty-headed girls, pays off because the acting is very natural and the characters, though stereotypes, are believable (but to include a gay man as the fourth fairy is not exactly too ingenious).
Then there’s the humour. Just like there are times when the gags and one-liners are surprising and really funny, there are others in which you can see them coming from a mile away, and so they feel obvious and unnecessary. This is precisely when more is less, you can see the pen of the scriptwriters and all magic is lost. The same applies to a few commonplace situations about folks in a thirty-something crisis.
There’s no doubt that the scenes flow and, for the most part, are very well developed. Also, there’s an undeniable sense of truth about them. But by the time the film wraps up, you wonder if a stronger central story would have made for a more gripping movie. As things stand, some potentially valuable material has been left unexplored.
All in all, however, 20.000 besos is worth seeing because it makes good on many of its promises.
20.000 besos / 20,000 Kisses. Argentina, 2013. Written by: Sebastián De Caro and Sebastián Rotstein. Directed by: Sebastián De Caro. With: Walter Cornás, Carla Quevedo, Gastón Pauls, Alan Sabbagh, Eduardo Blanco, Clemente Cancela, Laura Azcurra and Laura Cymer. Distributed by: Energía Entusiasta. NC13. Running time: 92 minutes.