Official competition (Competencia Oficial) | Movie Threat
Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by magic and the art of cinema, but even more so after my uncle took me to the set of The Children of the Garbage Bucket When I was young. Of course, no reviewer would confuse this film with art, but the craftsmanship of the sets and animatronics was utterly marvelous at the time. If we learned anything from this movie, it’s that story, acting and directing are vitally important if you want to make anything more than a B-movie (not that it there is something wrong with that).
Co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s Official competition (Skill Official) is about the artistic side of the craft, focusing primarily on acting and directing. Movie buffs like me eat this stuff, while average movie buffs may be less enthusiastic. The Coen Brothers Hi Caesar is a good yardstick for whether you’ll find it fascinating, as both movies prank on some of the more extreme and absurd aspects of filmmaking.
Written by Cohn, Duprat and Andrés Duprat, the film begins with a wealthy businessman named Humberto Suarez (Jose Luis Gomez) reflecting on his legacy in life. Eventually, he settled on the idea that he would produce a film with the “best of the best” involved. He pays a large sum in order to secure the film rights to a Nobel Prize-winning novel and hires eccentric director Lola Cuevas (Penelope Cruz) to steer the ship.
“…the great star Felix Rivero play alongside the lesser known but very prestigious actor Ivan Torres will create fascinating dramatic tension.
Lola decides that hiring big star Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) to star alongside lesser-known but high-profile actor Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez) will create some fascinating dramatic tension. She’s absolutely right, and so are the filmmakers on a meta level. The verbal and non-verbal contest and the one-upmanship between the two great actors is one of the strong points of Official competitionas they comically reach new heights of pettiness.
The acting trio of Cruz, Banderas and Martinez are terrific, all giving powerful performances. Each of them oscillates between the dramatic and the ridiculous without missing a beat. I feel like it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Banderas in a heavy role like this, and he delivers. I love the funky freshness Cruz brings to Lola, in everything from her puffy hairstyle to the frantic flossing dance. She playfully and manipulatively plays mind games on her two leading men, and it’s a joy to watch. The three actors are virtuosos here, while Cruz is hypnotic with his ardor and his energy.
Much is said about Felix’s ego, but each main character has inflated perceptions of their importance. It’s the fuel for comedy and drama, playing on how audiences perceive actors and directors. I enjoyed watching Ivan and Felix use very different methods to get into character, like eye drops versus real emotions in order to shed tears for a scene. The whole art versus entertainment debate in film, and on a meta level, is a blast.
Official competition is a bit long and could have used a bit more of the quirky humor it excels at. But overall, it’s an interesting journey to satirically draw back the curtain on movie magic.