Synopsis: Three cousins return to the village where they spent the summer holidays of their youth. The newly jilted Diego is encouraged to revisit his teenage love, by his relatives, the emotionally damaged Miguel and the suave Julian. The visit doesn't go as planned and the men get involved in local dramas. A raucous comedy about men and their vulnerabilities.
Dimwit dudes pay their dues in lacklustre rom-com.
We realise pretty quickly why his missus left Diego alone at the altar; he’s a twit.
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL: The long – some unkind souls might say way too long – first scene of writer-director Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s Spanish romantic comedy has three young guys in a church talking. And talking.
Actually more precisely, they are commiserating. One of them, the handsome, bearded but desperately insecure Diego (Quim Gutierrez) has just been dumped at the altar. His buddies are Julian (Adrian Lastra), who sports a hideous moustache and a strutting attitude; and Jose Miguel (Adrian Lastra), who wears an eye-patch and takes pharmaceuticals by the fistful in order to stave off all kinds of imaginary illnesses.
All three are cousins and all grew up in the same small village; a seaside paradise of cobblestones and medieval passages so impossibly glamorous and beautiful it looks here like it’s strayed in from an airline commercial.
Anyway, back in the church; they’re talking about women and how tough it is to have a relationship that actually works – though not in those words. Their dialogue is sprinkled with profane observations, lusty hopes, bitter sexism. These dudes are full of self-pity, and self-regard. It’s all impotent rage and it’s kind of funny. They look, sound and act…well, clueless, when it comes to both women and romance (we realise pretty quickly why his missus left Diego alone at the altar; he’s a twit).
Of course that is the gag here; in the great tradition of screen romance this movie, which has its charms but frankly indulges its talented cast to the point of tedium, is about how these guys get a sentimental education in the ways of love. Or to put it another way, this is a movie about how three dudes set out to get laid and find love (or should that be ‘love’?).
The plot is a ‘going home’ yarn. Julian suggests to Diego that the only way he’s going to get his romantic mojo back is to return to their home town and try to rekindle an old flame. Or as the script puts it, Julian ought to check out what Martina (Inma Cuesta) is up to; she was the first girl with whom Diego “dunked his donut” when they were teens. It’s a sweet memory and Diego is somewhat keen to relive it.
Once the lads hit home they discover that Martina is a single mum, with no steady boyfriend to speak of but a charming son, beautifully played by Marcos Ruiz.
At this point the narrative splits into three distinct but complimentary subplots; Diego pursues Martina with a nice bittersweet and unpredictable twist; Julian sets out to score with a prostitute Clara (Clara Lago), and Jose Miguel finds a kindred spirit in Martina’s son. Later his girlfriend turns up…
One critic optimistically suggested that Cousinhood was a film made under the sign of the Farelly brothers and Judd Apatow. Maybe, but if it is I’m not sure I’m copping to that label. The comedy here isn’t that hurtful, and vulgar or dare I say it, inventive. The Farrellys and their cinematic cousins have a mean streak a mile wide when it comes to their comic targets and they like to shock, confound and beat up on their heroes’ hopes and aspirations. Sanchez Arevalo seems to me a sweetheart who treats his characters’ many foibles with kid gloves. The closest thing to a dilemma the film presents is when Julian’s ex turns up; but she’s such a dim-bulb the ultimate outcome is a no brainer.
As for the humour its low-key and saccharine; I mean one of the ‘comic set pieces’ here is a longish montage sequence where our three heroes go and buy holiday clothes at an open-air market – garish t-shirts and shorts – all set to an upbeat pop tune. As a joke about emasculating macho guys it’s simply cute. And that sympathetic and celebratory sort of tone hits a climax when our trio of dimwit dudes do a tone-deaf Backstreet Boys number in concert; a part of the village’s annual celebrations.
Still, Cousinhood is well-crafted, it’s pleasant, and it’s pretty to look at. It’s got that honey and chocolate in the sunshine look, a bit like Entourage, and all the acting from the men in the cast has an upbeat goofiness that’s smile-inducing even when what’s on screen is a joke-free zone. The women are attractive, dignified and, strangely, they don’t seem to be permitted to be funny. It’s like they’re in a different film. The guys get all the jokes. It’s symptomatic of the film’s timid, hands-off attitude to its trio of guileless guys.
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