By Anna Bielak | April 22, 2012
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Writer: Randy Feldman
Starring: Salma Hayek, Santiago Segura, Javier Botet, Carolina Bang, Nacho Vigalondo, Blanca Portillo, José Mota, Nerea Camacho, Fernando Tejero
Being a guest on a morning television show for the first time taught me that what I wanted to say was of the least importance to the viewers. Having a nice dress was good, but the ability to sell my good spirit and emotions was the most valuable thing. I should have known that beforehand. I watched The Hunger Games a few weeks ago and I was thinking about its extremely intelligent social critique that utilizes all of the mechanisms of the mass media to comment on the world of reality television. You need to find a good way to express yourself in front of the cameras, you have to wear provocative clothes and you need to agree to a tie-in. If you make the audience believe that your story is worth following, they will help you; they will vote for you and turn you into a star.
If The Hunger Games deconstructs television from the inside, Alex de la Iglesia’s As Luck Would Have It does it from the perspective of an independent artist. De la Iglesia is not having less fun than Gary Ross; though he is maybe a bit more ironic than the American director, and thanks to that he stabs the mass media in its back.
So, should we anticipate a painful drama? Certainly. Roberto (José Mota) is a jobless loser. The best and only thing he has is his beautiful, faithful wife Luisa (Salma Hayek), who completely believes in him. Luisa is certain that Roberto will get a job in the corporation run by his old colleague; but, as we can assume from the very beginning, his interview will only be a series of unlucky events. But coffee spilt on his white shirt and water on his head is nothing in comparison to Roberto’s feeling that the mad men’s world has changed so much that he will no longer be able to fit in. First of all, he is not arrogant enough, secondly he is not self-confident. HE IS A LOSER. Let’s face it. He is not making a good impression, the stained shirt is the slightest problem. If he could be creative enough, he might turn everything upside down and bring in a profit for himself; yet, he does nothing, so he gets nothing.
What now? His wife. Roberto cannot lose Luisa as well, so Roberto decides to take Luisa on a second honeymoon, to the same location as their first one. But the small romantic hotel does not exist anymore; instead, Roberto finds a newly opened museum. In a slapstick sequence, Roberto is drawn inside the building, escorted onto the escalators by the crowd and finally pushed down a closed corridor that opens upon the ruins of an ancient theater. A few infortune steps lead Roberto to the edge. A guard drives Roberto crazy for a while, causing Roberto to take one step too far and fall. Nothing bad would have happened, if only a metal wire did not become stuck in his cranium.
Ok, so we have a show — literally and metaphorically speaking. From now on everything will be conveyed on the stage of this Greek theatre. One man — enough for this monodrama. As Roberto cannot move, the director brings all of the actors to him. After a few minutes, Roberto has the whole world at his feet. The Spanish TV reporters arrive so the whole country can watch his fight for life. These emotions are better than any reality show! Roberto is original (at last!). So… why not sell it? Copywriters and advertising agents are all around Roberto. They have an auction for the last interview with the victim. But what will happen, if the conversation is not Roberto’s last? There are no other options.
Still, Roberto is not so naive, he knows what to do — he was a copywriter once, remember? He was the man who made up the Coca-Cola jingle — as luck would have it. Now he is jobless, because de la Inglesia wants to tell a story about the contemporary crisis in Spain. Lots of young filmmakers make an effort to address this subject within their shorts, yet none of them are as creative as de la Iglesia. As Luck Would Have is a film simultaneously lined by Quentin Tarantino’s aesthetics, grotesque and contemporary mass media philosophy. It is a comedy, drama and satire; yet de la Iglesia crosses over all these genres. He loves them, but he prefers to maintain a distance.
Luisa has the same attitude. She is stubbornly detached from everything that is going on around Roberto; she only cares about the doctors and her love. Luisa does not want to become a part of the madness. She needs to be like this. As with every other character in As Luck Would Have It – Luisa is nothing more than a typical figure. This world needs her just as much as it requires mad men, businessmen and publicists. Mass media culture is like narcotics; as a philosopher would say, it is like a postmodern religion, an opium of the people. If we have religion now, we may wait for salvation. The Greek theater had been filled with Gods. Roberto is on the edge between life and death. I am sure that visions of paradise are flashing before his eyes; paradise that is filled in with money and fame. Will he enter? De la Iglesia would not be himself if he did not answer this question; but I would not be me if I revealed it now.