There are two narrative strands in the new rom-com from Manolo Caro. In the main action, two 40-somethings go to farcical lengths to deny their still-powerful feelings for each other. The second thread explores their impetuous teenage romance. The former could stand quite well without the other, but in Tales of an Immoral Couple (La vida inmoral de la pareja ideal), Caro and his appealing cast strike a winning balance between the familiar and the fresh. By turns ardent and absurd, the movie doesn’t quite suspend disbelief but embraces it, to charming effect.
Finding its own, fluid pulse — with fine work by a trio of editors — the pic’s push-pull nostalgia is fueled by pop music and dance, as well as affection for San Miguel de Allende, the arts-centric Mexican city where much of the action unfolds. Tonatiuh Martinez’s widescreen lensing favors symmetrical compositions that emphasize the story’s comic artifice, with Fernanda Guerrero’s bright production design putting its own stamp on the feature’s Almodovar Lite sensibility.
A winningly well-played romantic farce.
Though they’re determined to prove otherwise, Martina (Cecilia Suarez, excellent) and Lucio (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) have essentially been waiting for each other for 25 years. Even after a quarter-century, their bond is so intense that they instantly recognize each other’s voices after only a few overheard words in the random store where they cross paths. Flustered and smitten all over again, they both invent marriages for themselves on the spot and then have to recruit friends to play the invented parts during an upcoming night at the theater.
With the lure of a year’s free rent, Martina gets her tenant, Igor (Juan Pablo Medina), a depressed alcoholic writer, to play her hubby, while Queta (Nina Rubin), the mouthy 9-year-old daughter of her semiestranged sister, Beatriz (Mariana Trevino), is cast in the role of her kid. Lucio’s pregnant friend Loles (a terrifically game Paz Vega) eagerly digs into the chance to thesp out as his wife, but she and her husband, Vicente (Andres Almeida), complicate the ruse with their own secret.
The awkward fiction the grown-ups create, which culminates in a sharply played, vivaciously silly dinner scene, is intercut with the central duo’s memories of their love story. As the teenage Martina and Lucio, Ximena Romo and Sebastian Aguirre give the Catholic high schoolers’ connection an earnest, sensual curiosity. He fearlessly joins the school’s otherwise-female ballet class in order to be near her, and Caro’s zingy screenplay condenses the initial stages of their friendship into a few breezy yet charged scenes.
The filmmaker treats the young couple’s drugs-and-sex experimentation with refreshing respect, rather than sensationalism. At the same time, he casts an ambivalent eye toward a couple of adults — Martina’s dance teacher (Javier Jattin) and an erotic photographer (Erendira Ibarra) — who become a part of their adventure. But the soapy melodrama involving Martina’s best friend (Natasha Dupeyron) that eventually tears the two apart doesn’t have quite the intended impact. It doesn’t so much enrich the present-day action as punctuate it.
The contrast between the moralistic and the open-minded that Caro addresses in the memory sequences simply hasn’t the oomph of the adults’ folly, with its ridiculously emphatic rejection of sentiment. It’s the deliriously silly grown-ups — written, directed and performed with such fine-tuned friction — who are irresistible.
Production companies: Cinepolis Distribucion and Noc Noc Cinema in co-production with Mr. Wooo and Equipment & Film Design, in association with Zamora Films and Panorama Global
Distributor: Hola Mexico Distribution
Cast: Cecilia Suarez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Paz Vega, Mariana Trevino, Sebastian Aguirre, Ximena Romo, Juan Pablo Medina, Natasha Dupeyron, Andres Almeida, Nina Rubin, Javier Jattin, Erendira Ibarra
Director-screenwriter: Manolo Caro
Producers: Rafael Ley, Maria Jose Cordova, Manolo Caro, Stacy Perskie, Gerardo Gatica
Executive producers: Cecilia Suarez, Alberto Muffelmann
Director of photography: Tonatiuh Martinez
Production designer: Fernanda Guerrero
Costume designer: Natalia Seligson
Editors: Yibran Asuad, Miguel Musalem, Jorge Garcia
Composers: Julieta Venegas, Yamil Rezc
Casting director: Luis Rosales
Rated R, 91 minutes