Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5. Spain, 2016. Atresmedia Cine, Atresmedia, Crea SGR, Fernando Trueba Producciones Cinematográficas, Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Movistar+, The Queen Picture. Screenplay by Fernando Trueba. Cinematography by José Luis Alcaine. Produced by Anne Deluz, Mercedes Gamero, Cristina Huete, Mikel Lejarza. Music by Zbigniew Preisner. Production Design by Juan Pedro de Gaspar. Costume Design by Lala Huete. Film Editing by Marta Velasco.
Fernando Trueba returns to the characters of The Girl of Your Dreams and reunites them after twenty years. Macarena Granada (the always bewitching Penelope Cruz) is now a Sophia Loren-esque star in 1950s Hollywood who has returned to a Spain deeply under Franco’s control, set to star in a splashy El Cid-type film about Queen Isabella of Castile. Her co-star (Cary Elwes) is sexually harassing the Spanish men, her John Ford-esque director is always drunk and asleep, the screenwriter (Mandy Patinkin) who has escaped Hollywood’s Red Scare witch hunts has no hope of the film being any good and Cruz can’t keep her eyes off a hunky crew member (Chino Darin) who she hopes will alleviate her loneliness. Into this mess comes Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines), the main character of the previous film, who has been in hiding for years and returns like a ghost out of time, upsetting his wife who has remarried a member of Franco’s top brass while bringing back memories for Macarena and the actors and crew surrounding her. Production continues on the increasingly disastrous epic while Fontiveros is arrested and sent to a labour camp, inspiring Macarena to convince her friends to ignore their fears of the oppressive regime and help restore him to freedom. Mildly entertaining scenes are spread thin over an unnecessary 130 minute running time that is mainly an excuse to show off the gorgeous recreation of fifties cinema (including a clever insertion of Cruz into scenes with Kirk Douglas from Man Without A Star) and showcase the talents of some of Spain’s best actors (the best of them the always fabulous Loles Leon as, what else, a chatty but lovable assistant to the big star). A great deal of effort is wasted on something without substance, whose plot really gets dull and drawn out by the conclusion, abandoning the promise of a biting satire on the movie business that it began with.