People who could not achieve their dreams
Guillermo Francella speaks about his new movie El misterio de la felicidad
Guillermo Francella used to be the kind of actor you loved to hate: the toothy-smiled, all around nice guy from low-brow, tacky TV series who becomes a ubiquituous presence in the average family’s living room.
Truth is he is a very talented comedian, but almost never had the chance to prove his mettle. Come 2009, though, filmmaker Juan José Campanella came knocking on his door and gave Francella a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: playing the permanently inebriated court clerk Pablo Sandoval in El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes). If you were the type of moviegoer who never pays close attention to a film’s credits other than the leads, you were probably stunned to learn the guy who played Sandoval with such acumen was no less than good ol’ Francella. It was a U-turn in Francella’s career. Maybe it was the first time he earned massive respect.
After the sweeping success of El secreto..., you could rightly say that Francella had nothing else to prove, that there was no pending matter for him. But the problem of leaving your dreams behinds is at the core of El misterio de la felicidad, the new Francella comedy premiering today in BA. Directed by Daniel Burman (the award-winning director behind the Messiah trilogy), El misterio de la felicidad pairs Francella (Santiago) with Inés Estévez (Laura), who thus stages a comeback after a long absence from the local scene.
Francella likes to define the easy-going Santiago as “a vulnerable man,” and defines El misterio de la felicidad as “a beautiful opportunity to reveal how masculinity functions today, and what risks you must be willing to take if you want to achieve your dreams.”
“I’m full of expectations when a new movie opens, I’m passionate about cinema. On television, on the other hand, the budget is more important than the artistic side, and it’s a pain in the neck when all you hear about a television show is the production costs,” says Francella.
After El hombre de mi vida on Telefé Channel 11, Francella stars in El misterio de la felicidad as Santiago, a middle-aged man who seems to have everything he needs. That is, a good business with a lifetime partner and friend, Eugenio (Fabián Arenillas), a stable income, and satisfying if sporadic amorous liaisons. Eugenio’s life is very similar to Santiago’s, only that Eugenio is married (to Laura, played by Inés Estévez). Herein seems to lie the difference between the two men, who behave like some twin brothers do: wear the same kind of clothes, have the same jobs, agree on almost everything, share an office with a middle partition (meaning that their share of office space is exactly the same).
The plot twist in El misterio de la felicidad comes when Eugenio vanishes in thin air, for no apparent reason. “It’s this is a question many of us have at some point asked ourselves, ‘What if...?’ I love playing the role of somebody who learns to leave things behind to seek a cherished dream which, in many cases, involves love,” Francella enthuses.
Francella’s earnestness is contagious as he also describes the other pivotal point in the film: the nature of masculinity, what it means to be a man, the notion of male bonding (not homosexual, though), and what happens when one half of an inseparable duo of men becomes enamoured with his best friend’s wife, especially when the friend has disappeared. If one is to believe Francella’s words, friendship comes first, and love takes second place, as is apparently the case in El misterio de la felicidad. “It’s about the code of ethics between men, a code that allows men to communicate silently while reading the newspaper (for example),” Francella says.
“The friendship between these two guys is genuine,” he continues, “they will not refrain from saying anything to each other, such as, ‘Uy, that hairdresser of yours has really messed it, he cut your hair like s**t,’ and it’s OK. But if you tell a woman the same thing, (of course) she will take offence.”
As for being cast alongside actress Inés Estévez (back after an eight-year hiatus), Francella says he felt honoured to be picked by Burman for his new movie. “We shared a natural chemistry (with Estévez), some instances felt like we were a real couple, this is very moving when you see it on the screen,” he says.
El misterio de la felicidad deals with the reasons why people will often choose security over their own desire, which eventually leaves people brokenhearted, unsatisfied and lost in loneliness. In synch with this theme, Francella defines Santiago as “a man who has always been so alone that he never questioned the situation.”
“He likes to think everything’s fine, slaving days out at the store, unable to learn what days off are all about. He has once dated girl, but he no longer does. He just has some flings, which help him go by,” Francella says with that mischievous smile that has become his trademark.
Moving on to a different subject — his next project — Francella says that he will star in the stage production of Dos pícaros sinverguenzas (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine in the film version. Dos pícaros sinverguenzas will also star actor-producer Adrián Suar, with whom Francella has already worked in the theatre in La cena de los tontos (Le diner des cons) in 2008.
Francella is eager to tread the boards again, and it shows. “I love the magic of the theatre and its rituals. This comedy (Dos pícaros sinverguenzas), directed by Marcos Carnevale, is side-splitting, and the story is worth telling once and again,” he concludes.