Regardless of that metaphorical solo, Lucia, Lucia blends a lot of different styles effortlessly and is buoyed by a terrific performance by Cecilia Roth in the title role. Lucia is an aging children's book writer who is unsatisfied with her life in Mexico. Everything changes, when her bureaucrat husband, Ramon, disappears at the airport.
She's convinced a woman is to blame until she gets a phone call demanding 20 million pesos, or else her husband will be killed. Through a frantic phone call from Ramon, Lucia eventually finds her way to his aunt's "inheritance," with the help from an elderly neighbor, Felix (Carlos Álvarez-Novoa, in a spirited, dignified acting job).
When the duo returns from the bank, they are unexpectedly attacked by several men, but escape harm and financial loss due to the bravery of another resident, Adrian (Kuno Berker). Felix and Lucia nurse the hunky, young musician back to health, and the three quickly develop an unusual friendship. Lucia lets Adrian in on the kidnapping plot and the three find themselves avoiding danger, learning about each other and picking up some life lessons. Adrian favors famous quotes in framing his philosophy; Felix opts for wizened observations.
All three activities appeal to Lucia, who, when she is finally told by the kidnappers that she has one last chance to get her husband back, wails in regret. Roth handles the lead role splendidly, embracing the excitement and affection her new circumstances and friends have brought, but alternately dreading the reality awaiting her. That isn't surprising, since she teeters on the brink of middle-age complacency, which is highlighted in a scene when she becomes angry. Felix responds by saying she looks unique. She's in new territory, especially as she discovers more clues about her husband's professional life.
Talk all you want about the overrated Bend It Like Beckham espousing the tenets of girl power, but Roth and director Antonio Serrano show what that's all about. And they do it without Lucia buying a new wardrobe, running in a sports bra or warbling "I Will Survive." (OK, Lucia and Adrian hook up, but that's an extension of two lost people finding each other.) That flaunting of convention makes Lucia, Lucia so enjoyable. It's a character study, a caper story, a road movie and a love story wrapped into one. Serrano handles the diverse material with such a deft hand that you feel like you're falling into a moment right with the characters. The narrative structure also keeps your attention -- Lucia, as a writer, has a tendency to embellish her stories. Who knows when the movie will take a trip down Mulholland Drive?
But again, I must go back to those last five minutes. I won't go into it too much, except to say that it's talky, repetitive, and doesn't clarify a lot. A good ending should galvanize the movie, be a final affirmation that your time sitting next to the phlegm cougher and the obnoxious movie geek was well spent. In the case of Lucia, Lucia, you question your investment and that of the people involved in making the movie. The audience went through so much excitement to get this? It's like driving 30 miles to an ice cream parlor only to be handed two scoops of vanilla.
Aka La Hija del canibal.
Director Antonio Serrano gets his say on the DVD, with an English-language commentary track. A making-of short is also available on the disc.
Mulholland? Just around the corner.
Run time: 110 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th July 2003
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Antonio Serrano
Producer: Matthias Ehrenberg
Screenwriter: Antonio Serrano
Starring: Acoustic Alchemy as band