• Tuesday, 20 August 2019

'Despite Everything' is 'Mamma Mia!' sans ABBA songs


Film: "Despite Everything (A Pesar De Todo)" on Netflix; Language: Spanish; Director: Gabriela Tagliavini; Cast: Belen Cuesta, Bianca Suarez, Amaia Salamanca and Macarena Garcia; Rating: *(1 star)





Imagine the musical blockbuster "Mamma Mia!" without the sensational songs by the Swedish group ABBA, and this is what we have here in this bland, vapid, ennervated witless Spanish film about four sisters of varying ages and profiles, on a quest to discover their respective biological fathers.

Before we go any further into this eminently uninspiring drama, a mention must me made of the four sisters' mother who seems to have slept with half the town. The daughters must concede that their mother was sl*t. And we really can't dispute that description.

No wonder the dead mother's surviving husband is now on the verge of dementia. The actor, who plays the father, makes him look like a cross between an absent-minded professor and a serial killer who has been tortured in custody. When you have a wife who is constantly sleeping out, you cannot remain normal.

The characters are seriously fractured. And it's not because four daughters of the same mother are looking for their own fathers. The fault, dear readers, lies with the tone which suggests that we should empathize with the four protagonists' parental hunt even as every move they make, makes us laugh helplessly.

While the four sisters crawl through various potential fathers, they find the time to discuss one another's imperfect lives in some detail. Each one of the sisters is given a convenient back story that is as hazy as the tone of bemusement which scratches at the edges of this shallow and silly sibling drama.

The four actresses playing the lead, struggle with roles that give them no rights or privileges. They obediently sleepwalk through the dialogues about sl*tty moms and shifty fathers that must have seemed amusing on paper. Somehow the potential fathers -- a blind priest, a janitor posing as a hotshot and an artiste who paints penises and vaginas -- don't seem to invoke any kind of amusement or interest in us.

It is hard to believe that this feather-brained fatuous death-in-the-family farce was written by four writers. What were they thinking? And what was Netflix thinking while acquiring this woebegone misfire?

(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at jhasubh@gmail.com)

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'Despite Everything' is 'Mamma Mia!' sans ABBA songs

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