A divorced mother, Sofia, gathers her three grown daughters for her birthday celebration and an announcement: She’s in love. The siblings barely have time to react before the special person, someone 20 years Sofia’s junior, shows up at the door. And then the freakouts begin.
Gimena (Maria Pujalte), the married eldest daughter and a mom herself, expresses disgust that her mother (Rosa María Sardà) is behaving like a horny teenager: “You can’t always just do what you want.” Elvira (Leonor Watling), the panicky middle child, hyperventilates: “My heart’s pounding. I think I’m going to have a fit.” Only Sofia’s youngest, Sol (Silvia Abascal), an Avril Lavigne–ish pixie with multihued hair, seems to take the news in stride, dryly telling Elvira, “Don’t get hysterical. No one’s died of having a lesbian mother.”
The title pretty much sums up what My Mother Likes Women is all about. The Spanish comedy, the first feature both written and directed by frequent collaborators Daniela Fejerman and Inés París, My Mother Likes Women is, however, less about a mother and her unexpected lifestyle change than the daughters’ wacky reactions to it.
And things do get wacky. Fejerman and París seem to be aiming for a more lighthearted—and, sadly, less substantial—version of an Almodovarian farce. After learning that Sofia has lent her lover, Eliska (Eliska Sirova), her life’s savings, the sisters become convinced that Eliska’s a gold digger and concoct a plan to break up the relationship by luring the young lesbian to cheat on Sofia.
While Gimena is neurotically uptight and Sol unapologetically free-spirited, Elvira is the ultimate woman on the verge here. Watling, who in fact played one of the two coma patients in Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, portrays the pretty, 20-ish Elvira as a hand-wringing, grimacing Katie Holmes–on–Xanax, and regardless of Pujalte and Abascal’s sharp characterizations as Elvira’s very different siblings, the film’s all hers.
Elvira is, naturally, in therapy, where she discusses her fear that she might have inherited her mother’s lesbianism and is consequently felt up by her counselor (“Take it as a therapeutic experiment!”). Unhappy with her low-paying job working for a dirtbag publisher while neglecting her dream of becoming a writer, she is pushed over the line into Crazy Town by her boss’s offhand remark that he won’t be able to pay her for a while. Finally, her stress levels skyrocketing, she purposefully ruins a lunch meeting with a potential big-name (and hunky) client, Miguel (Chisco Amado).
But no matter how bizarre Elvira’s behavior gets—she later ruins a make-out session with Miguel, as well as a follow-up really-I’m-not-nutty dinner—she remains a highly likable girl interrupted, not only because of Watling’s portrayal but also because the script gives Elvira good intentions, sparks of wit and intelligence, and an entertainingly painful awareness (if not understanding) of her screw-ups. Fejerman and París are less generous with other developments, including Gimena’s barely hinted at marital trouble and Sofia’s rather unbelievable knee-jerk reaction to a petty misunderstanding. There’s also no sense of real time here, only convenience: The sisters’ attempt to secure a seductress for Eliska finds them immediately swarmed upon in a gay bar (where even the k.d. lang types wear lipstick); at another point, an answering-machine message indicates that such-and-such hasn’t seen so-and-so for months, when it seems as if only days had gone by.
But the fact that My Mother Likes Women has little resemblance to the real world is hardly the point. Despite the characters’ many woes, the film aspires to be no more than froth, never really addressing its theme of adult-onset homosexuality with the poignancy Almodóvar might lend it. It just provides a punch line for the pseudo-tortured sisters to have fun with.
And the filmmakers do a swell job of ensuring that it’s fun for the audience, too: One of the movie’s best moments comes at a rock show headlined by Sol shortly after Sofia’s coming-out. With her parents, sisters, and Eliska in attendance, Sol dedicates a new song to “my family, especially my mum, the coolest woman in the world.” And then proceeds to serenade the packed house with a dirty ditty that includes the line “I felt like committing suicide when she told me she had a woman licking her belly!”
The phrase “licking her belly” is repeated—and repeated—as Sol breathes heavily and shakes what her momma gave her, as said momma and the rest of her family look at the stage in horror (except for Elvira, who quickly looks to the floor and covers her ears). The scene is funny, and even the song is pretty damn good. CP