Friday, July 31, 2009

Empty Nest: fatuous fantasies

Melbourne International Film Festival 2009


Fifty something men have various oral fantasies but lusting after your dentist is a novel way of exploring a mid-life crisis.

Empty Nest is a lightweight Argentine comedy about a writer trying to get over one of life’s humps. It is a Spanish language baby boomer’s movie.

When Leonardo (Oscar Martínez) and Martha’s (Cecilia Roth) three children fly the coop, each of reacts very differently to the new freedom. She picks up where she left off at University, PC (pre child). He responds to his jealousy that follows in typical fashion. He tells his new lover with characteristic insensitivity, “I’ve never cheated on my wife before”.

There is a catch. His mysterious neurologist friend (Arturo Goetz) contends that as part of aging we can believe that our recollected fantasies are real. In Leonardo’s case it is not really important as his are shallow, to say the least. His real fantasy is to be able to change small details of his past. Wouldn’t we all! As the official website says, “Leonardo prefiere la introversión”.

Martinez is best when silent, projecting Leonardo’s confused inner-life through his droll facial expressions. Roth plays Martha very effectively but her role is too limited.

The dilemma for director Daniel Burman is that it’s hard to sustain a cerebral comedy. He can’t blame the writer. The story slips more and more into absurdist techniques as he tries to build to some kind of climax. The final stages of the film are disappointing. we are left floating as Leonardo's fantasies cannot fill the vacuum.



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