Queens (Reinas) tells the story of a bevy of gay men who are about to be married in a group wedding to celebrate the legalization of homosexual unions in Spain. But though there is no shortage of petulant drama queen behavior from this group of stylish young men, the real queens of this movie are the mothers.
Superficially a gay-themed movie — outside of Spain, it has played mostly in gay and lesbian film festivals since it opened in 2005 — its best roles are played by Veronica Forque, Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Sampietro and Carmen Maura (the best-known of the ladies to English-speaking audiences, having featured in many of Pedro Almodovar’s films). These women are the royalty of Spanish cinema, and though none of them could be considered young, director Manuel Gomez Pereira delights in making these “women of a certain age” even more attractive than his eligible male actors.
Pereira nails his colors to the mast in a scene early on in which Marisa Paredes, who was 59 when the film was made, walks down the stairs of a luxury apartment. She’s wearing a flowing evening gown that falls low off the shoulders, and walks to the torrid strains of Michael Buble doing a cover of Peggy Lee’s Fever. Pereira’s camera lingers, caressing every line, both the curves and the wrinkles. It is utterly gratuitous, and totally lovely, managing to be both touching, funny, camp and enormously sexy. For anyone with a mother complex, or a grandmother complex for that matter, this is essential viewing.
Much else in the film is equally gratuitous and absurd, but Pereira clearly couldn’t care less. His film is a farce, with all kinds of complications as workers at the hotel where many of the wedding participants are staying go on strike, an old English sheepdog goes walkabout, infidelities are revealed, the presiding judge has a heart attack and the queens — both male and female — generally act out. Pereira manages to draw all the improbable strands together, forming a framework for his real objective, which is to charm the audience. He has a light touch, and is aided by a brisk script with lots of amusing moments and a good command of comic pacing (the story is revealed through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards that adds a frenetic energy and complexity), but the story itself is really just a piece of fluff.
DIRECTED BY: Manuel Gomez Pereira
STARRING: Veronica Forque (Nuria), Carmen Maura (Magda), Marisa Paredes (Reyes), Mercedes Sampietro (Helena), Betiana Blum (Ofelia), Gustavo Salmeron (Hugo), Unax Ugalde (Miguel), Hugo Silva (Jonas), Lluis Homar (Jacinto)
RUNNING TIME: 107 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
Languages: In Spanish with Chinese and English subtitles
What makes Queens more than just a pastiche of stylish images and amusing jokes is the director’s very touching admiration for his leading ladies. There is Paredes, who plays a well-known actress, Veronica Forque, an aging nymphomaniac (“It is a weakness, I always have sex with the most inappropriate people.”), Carmen Maura, the owner of a hotel catering to a gay clientele, Mercedes Sampietro, the judge who will preside over the wedding, and Argentine actress Betiana Blum, who causes havoc with her sticky-beaking. Their faults range from homophobia to nymphomania, bossiness, arrogance, appalling ignorance of those supposedly closest to them, greed, selfishness and on and on. Pereira delights in every petty-minded, self-seeking moment, so that he can, at the right moment, highlight the gorgeousness within. They are awful, but we can’t help loving them to bits.
The men, with the exception of Lluis Homar who plays a gardener who has a fling with the wealthy Paredes, are nothing more than comic ciphers. That’s really all they are expected to be, and anyone looking for any exploration of gay relationships or gay marriage will not find it here.