A Lack of Ideas: Our Review of ‘The Queen of Spain’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 27, 2017
A Lack of Ideas: Our Review of ‘The Queen of Spain’

Fernando Trueba’s The Queen of Spain takes too long to set itself up, and that’s quite unfortunate. It begins with archive footage reels, seeming more like a history course. Which is fine, not everyone knows about the Spanish Civil War and what Franco did after winning. But splicing that with WWII stuff, really? It’s only useful to show the Matthausen concentration camp and one of its survivors. He happens to be one of the film’s main characters, Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines). Blink and you’ll miss him, because I almost did. It’s seamless CGI work in an overblown prologue.

The other main character we see in these reels is Macarena Granada (Penelope Cruz). Macarena worked her way from supporting roles to lead ones. And in 1956, she has to return to her home country and play the titular character. Specifically, she’s playing Queen Isabella of Castile, a queen who united the country into what it is now. There’s a lot on her mind while playing such an iconic, problematic role. Macarena is doing so for a Hollywood production that refuses to understand her. She faces another problem on top of that.

Macarena discovers that Blas, her former lover, escaped Matthausen only to find himself in Franco’s labour camps. This is a sequel, by the way. Blas and Macarena’s escape plan mirrors that of the first movie’s plot. There, they use a movie production to help a Jewish girl escape Nazi Germany. Ironically, these characters have to move forward while replaying their individual and national pasts. This is one of the film’s main ideas that the film unfortunately doesn’t explore beyond its mere infant stages. Instead of exploring these ideas, we just end up spending time watching these characters whine about old age.

Macarena’s a little bit older, like the rest, but she still has her beauty. But there’s more to the character than just her beauty and Cruz knows it. That’s what almost saves this movie. Almost. She has played glamorous movie stars and single mothers. Nevertheless, Cruz ends up playing women wearily taking on big responsibilities yet accomplishes what she needs to do. She does so here. There’s even a moment where she dresses up as a Renaissance era knight to rescue her ex-lover in distress. It’s a great moment in a comedy where most of the jokes fumble their punchlines.

The film serves both as history and alternate history. Macarena is a Sofia Loren type, playing every Mediterranean role under the sun. Despite caring for Blas, her affair with him is a thing of the past. This time she sets her eyes on a hunky head grip (Chino Darin). Her friends Lucia Gandia (Neus Asensi) and Castillo (Santiago Segura) entered a marriage of convenience. The film within a film’s screenwriter (Mandy Patinkin) is in Spain ironically enough to escape Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklist. These are archetypes but the actors playing them do their best to elevate them.

This post was written by

While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.