Manana te Cuento (2005)
Written and Directed by Eduardo Mendoza
Starring Angie Jibaja, Melania Urbina, Milene Vasquez, Bruno Ascenzo, Oscar Beltran, Jason Day, Jose Manuel Pelaez

This movie needs a shrink more than I do, suffering a debilitating skitzophrenic episode halfway through the course of an evening which attempts to deconstruct male insecurities and gender roles after building up a sub-par teen sex-comedy foundation. What had promised to be cheap and easy hee-haw dumb entertainment stands you on your head trying to beat you like a pinata by means of the most incredulous bout of subterfuge possible. What’s more bizarre is that had Eduardo Mendoza decided from the start that he wanted to make a straight introspective drama without the pretense of a light-hearted Peruvian Porky’s he might have succeeded in creating a worthwhile exploration of male/female relationships but the jarring method he employs, despite whatever intentions, serves only to smack your face so silly you can’t help but sit slack-jawed and stare in bewilderment through his more serious pulpit pounding tirade while spittle and froth rain down on the congregation.

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Our introduction to the heroes is a quick cut, rock video montage of Efrain (Oscar Beltran), Juan Diego (Jason Day) and El Gordo (Jose Manuel Pelaez) defiling their respective romantic interests while Manuel (Bruno Ascenzo) the virgin defiles himself in as awkward a position as possible, resulting in some falling, cheap laughs and the end of the opening credits. Juan Diego, rich brat extraordinaire, finds his family leaving town for the night and he calls his compatriots over to raise hell on Halloween. Meanwhile the girls have clustered together to talk shop and smear copious amounts of makeup on their face in between tequila shots and cell phone calls.

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The boys decide to “borrow” the family car and roll through the costume thick streets, pursuing traditional activities like whacking golf balls off hills into the city, donning wolf masks to startle people having sex in cars and trying to cop beer. After a couple toughs wearing Bart Simpson masks rip off the hooch and after the cops pull them over twice the boys return broke and defeated to Casa Juan Diego deflated and resentful. Much shit-talking of Peru carries scenes, while Manuel flips through his Guinness book finding locals who have performed award winning feats of brilliance.

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If this was a teen sex-comedy you would assume that the tipsy and heavily made-up girls would end up coming over and hilarity and a little T&A would ensue but Juan Diego left-fields everyone by using daddy’s credit card to hire three VIP escorts to come to his house and stay, for some reason, until five in the morning. So much head-scratching takes place, like how his father would never notice the charge, how the obviously shy and sensitive Manuel is so easily coerced and how the testosterone-drooling El Gordo abstains from the activities to be true to his shaky relationship.

Enter the prostitutes, three glamour girls wearing clubbing gear sitting uncomfortably in the living room while El Gordo, self-proclaimed MC, mixes drinks paid for with the magical credit card. The boys, giddy and hyperactive, draw straws outside while giggling and the escorts sit on the couch rolling their eyes and talk shit about their clients. About here the fun, whatever you’ve been able to squeeze from this brick, ends.

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What ensues is a mix of intense character study, character assassination and erotica. The self-assured Juan Diego finds his prostitute, Carla (Milene Vasquez), confronting his sexual prowess so brashly that he finds himself calling his girlfriend in between bouts of sex. Efrain’s macho fantasies get flipped on their back by the more macho Gabriela (Angie Jibaja) while the timid and unsure Manuel makes a real connection with his girl Viviana (Melania Urbina) by spending most of the evening talking and sharing deeply suppressed secrets. Meanwhile El Gordo wanders through the house rummaging through Juan Diego’s mom’s underwear and finding a pistol (!) in a drawer. Where does this all lead? People are introduced to unpleasant realities about themselves and no one seems to have gotten what they signed up for, but maybe they got what they needed.

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The most obvious problem is the story, particularly after the credit card is magically produced and the VIP escorts show up. Nothing makes sense anymore, nothing is even remotely within the realm of plausible. Kids whacking golf balls into the city? Sure, been there… Getting fucked with by the cops? Yep. Back and forth petty calls to the group of girls? Of course. Making deep connections with a prostitute or having one suddenly decide, for no reason whatsoever, to smack your pretensions aside and gut you doesn’t make sense. The escorts could have walked in, did their thing, put up with what is probably the most harmless variety of bullshit they endure nightly, and gone home at dawn. I suspect that Mendoza was trying to show the prostitutes as strong women, not whores, but by senselessly pitting them against a collection of feckless zits nothing is really gained. Latin men have the reputation of misogyny and boorishness which I’m all for seeing attacked but this flick seems way off the mark for any profound statement.

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Early sequences of the movie are shot in a hyperactive digital video style mimicking MTV and modern American teen comedies. While the use of DV may be a budgetary constraint there’s no financial excuse for the style. As the evening descends into hogwash the cameras slow down and began to roam more voyeuristically which is appropriate for the strangely placed softcore and the emotional sparring taking place in each of the rooms. An argument can be made that the beginning is shot and edited in a way to accentuate the youthful enthusiasm but, really, is Peru so culturally devoid they can’t show geeky fun without annoying the fuck out of the audience?

Another indication that Peru remains a cultural backwater is the horrible music which flits in and out of the movie. The car squeals through the streets of Lima(?) with the worst Spanish pop-punk blaring and the original music provokes thoughts of long, shaggy hair and bandanas, head shaking slightly side to side as that high note gets bent through flange hell. Fortunately the war of the sexes requires less audio rape and you can at least sit bewildered and annoyed without having to endure another cock rock explosion.

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The DVD is in Spanish with optional English subtitles that are literate and visible. The digital video doesn’t suffer any notable pixelization and the scenes are all well lit and balanced. There’s nothing worth noting about the sound (I suspect this is only available as a straight 2.0 stereo track) except for the soundtrack. Available via Netflix and your favorite torrent site. A sequel has recently come out which you can track down on your own if this blows you away. Kudos to Posthegemony, the only place I could find a real review of this movie, although I can’t be as compassionate. Couldn’t find a real trailer so here’s a clip from early on in the movie.