Friday, May 09, 2014

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, Que he hacho yo para merecer esto? (What Have I Done to Deserve This?) is the story of a middle-class housewife who has a family filled with eccentric people as she tries to maintain a sense of normalcy in her life. The film is a mixture of melodrama and humor as it plays into a woman trying to make sense of the world that she lives in. Starring Carmen Maura, Angel de Andres Lopez, Veronica Forque, and Gonzalo Suarez. Que he hacho you para merecer esto? is an engrossing yet sensational film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores the life of a housewife who lives in a cramped apartment with her husband, her mother-in-law, and two teenage sons as she works cleaning houses for a living as money is tight and things are becoming chaotic. While it’s a film that has some humor, it’s mostly a melodrama in the vein of a lot of different styles as Pedro Almodovar creates a story that has a woman dealing with the world that she’s in. For the character of Gloria (Carmen Maura), she fantasizes about having a life outside of her eccentric family that consists of her unhappy mother-in-law (Chus Lampreave), a homosexual son in Miguel (Miguel Angel Herraz), her older son in drug dealer Toni (Juan Martinez), and her husband Antonio (Angel de Andres Lopez) who used to work as a chauffer for a revered German singer as he’s also a talented forger. The activities of Antonio, her sons, and her mother-in-law have Gloria feel unappreciated and overworked as the only friend she has is her neighbor in the prostitute Cristal (Veronica Forque).

The film’s screenplay features a lot of subplots involving Toni’s deals and his relationship with his grandmother as he helps her wanting to go back to her home village as he will join her. Other subplots involve Miguel’s sexual exploits as he often gets the attraction of older men, Antonio’s schemes with a writer in Lucas Villalba (Gonzalo Suarez) involving the memoirs of Adolf Hitler as he’s also a client of Cristal, and a neighbor (Kiti Manver) who abuses her telekinetic daughter Vanessa (Sonia Hohmann). All of which plays into Gloria’s desire for something better as well as questioning herself into why is she living this very chaotic life where her husband always spend their money on bullshit. Though the script doesn’t have much of a plot, it is more of a character study into Gloria’s life as she is eager for something normal as it would take some drastic steps for her to find that normalcy.

Almodovar’s direction is pretty simple in terms of the compositions he creates as it mostly focuses on medium shots and close-ups with a few wide shots of the city of Madrid and its locations. Much of it is set in this apartment complex where Gloria, her family, and her neighbors live in as it’s quite cramped in some parts as it would represent the sense of repression in Gloria’s life. Some of it would be humorous as well as filled with some eccentricities where Gloria would watch Cristal having sex with a client while they’re having a conversation. Some of the compositions that Almodovar creates does play into melodrama in the way he places Gloria into a frame as it plays to not just her growing frustrations with the world but with herself. Much of it has Almodovar paying homage to American melodramas while infusing it with some visual motifs inspired by the French New Wave and the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Particularly as its climax would involve Gloria not only getting some resolution about her life but also the sense of hope that her family will be able to appreciate her and help her. Overall, Almodovar crafts a very intelligent and compelling film about the chaotic life of a housewife in Madrid.

Cinematographer Angel L. Fernandez does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the lighting schemes in Cristal‘s apartment as well as the more low-key look for the interiors in Gloria‘s apartment. Editor Jose Salcedo does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while it has some flairs of style with its jump-cuts for some of its melodramatic scenes. Set decorators Roman Arango and Pin Morales do amazing work with the look of Gloria‘s apartment as it features posters of the band Kiss in her son‘s room as well as the more lavish look in Cristal‘s apartment.

Costume designer Cecilia Roth does terrific work with the costumes from the wild clothes of Cristal to the more plain clothes that Gloria wears. Sound recording engineer Enrique Molinero does superb work with the sound to create some effects and such to play into some of the drama. The film’s music by Bernardo Bonezzi is fantastic for its mixture of orchestral themes to play into the melodrama with some electronic-based music for its humor and suspense.

The film’s cast includes some cameo appearances from Pedro Almodovar as an actor singing on a film set and Cecilia Roth as a woman in a coffee commercial. Other notable small roles include Kiti Manver as Gloria and Cristal’s cruel neighbor Juani, Sonia Hohmann as Juani’s telekinetic daughter Vanessa, Amparo Soler Leal as Lucas’ wife Patricia, and Katia Lortiz as a once-famous German singer whom Antonio used to be a chauffer for. Miguel Angel Herraz and Juan Martinez are terrific in their respective roles as Gloria’s teenage sons in the openly-gay Miguel and the more adventurous drug dealer Toni. Gonzalo Suarez is excellent as the writer Lucas Villalba who conspires with Antonio to forge some handwritten pieces from Adolf Hitler for a memoir while Chus Lampreave is hilarious as Gloria’s mother-in-law who always talks about her village and hiding things like her mineral water and Magdalena cakes.

Angel de Andres Lopez is amazing as Gloria’s very selfish husband Antonio who always spend whatever he and Gloria earns while often singing German opera as he seems indifferent to what his sons do or how hard his wife work. Veronica Forque is fantastic as Cristal as an aspiring actress who works as a prostitute as she often helps out Gloria while is very close with Toni as it’s a performance that has more substance than the usual hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold caricature. Finally, there’s Carmen Maura in tremendous performance as Gloria as a woman who wants to escape from her chaotic family life while questioning her worth as it’s a very chilling yet mesmerizing performance from the actress as it’s definitely one of her best.

Que he hacho you para merecer esto? is an excellent film from Pedro Almodovar that features a phenomenal performance from Carmen Maura. Not only is it one of Almodovar’s most enduring homages to cinema but also a unique portrait of a woman trying to make sense of her life. In the end, Que he hacho you para merecer esto? is a marvelous film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All about My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited! - Julieta - Pain & Glory - (The Human Voice (2020 short film)) - (Parallel Mothers)

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2014

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