Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It's an Almodóvar farce about, well, about women on the verge of a .... 
  • One of the main characters is an actress, on the verge because her long-time lover left dumped her in an answering machine message.
  • Another is afraid of the police, because she just found out that her boyfriend is a Shiite extremist and she fears she may be an unintentional collaborator.
  • A third is not just on the verge, but had the breakdown long ago, and has spent 20 years in a mental institution. She has faked good mental health long enough to get a release so she can kill her ex-husband.
Did I mention that the ex-husband of the third woman is also the ex-lover of the first, and that his son (Antonio Banderas, looking like the ultimate Geek) is the new boyfriend of the second? And that the son just showed up to rent a room from the first.


Carmen Maura's breasts are seen briefly in transparent lingerie
And then there is the entrepreneurial peroxided cab driver who loves mambo music and leopard skins, the people that miss each other by seconds, the pitcher full of gazpacho and barbiturates, people falling off ledges, an apartment full of live chickens, the mad gunfight cum car chase through the streets of Madrid, the flaming bed, and did I mention at least two times when people jump into a cab and shout "follow that cab"?

It's actually a pretty dumb movie, but fun. It is a big extravagant, silly, flamboyant, colorful, slapstick farce, and I laughed through the whole thing when I wasn't marveling at the beauty and composition of the images. Imagine a 1930's Carole Lombard movie in bright vivid colors and moved from New York to Madrid. Stir in high-camp music and minor characters and, voila!

My favorite moment was a commercial seen on TV, unrelated to the action. Carmen Maura plays a soap opera actress, the mother of a murderer in the soap story, and she spins this premise off to do commercials in her soap opera character. The one I loved was a detergent ad. The murderous son comes home from a hard day of serial killing, his clothing soaked in blood. But mom washes his clothes in new Super Omo, and by the time the cops arrive, his shirt is whiter than white, without a trace of evidence. The cops are disappointed about the arrest, but really impressed with the detergent, and resolve to switch over at their own households.

That pretty much gives you the idea.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, good transfer

  • no features except a trailer

  • In Spanish. Dubbed or sub-titles

Tuna's comments in yellow

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) is a comedy written and directed by noted filmaker Pedro Almodóvar. This is considered one of his better films, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. For me, the film never reached the level of funny. It was, however, beautifully shot, and well acted. It had more the feel of a stage play than a film, with very large characters, and not much action.

It is the story of several women wronged mostly by men, and in varying degrees of despair. Carmen Maura stars as an actress who has been living with her married co-star, who is now leaving her. Before the story is over, we meet his son and his fiancee, Maura's best friend who is in trouble with the police after an affair with terrorists, the insane wife, and the wife's feminist attorney who is the reason Maura is being dumped. Maura shows most of both breasts in a mostly transparent undergarment.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it an impressive 7.7, high enough to make the top 250 of all time if it had more votes.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. I have a feeling this may not be everybody's cup of tea, but as an updated version of an old-fashioned slapstick farce, it sure works for me. Very pleasant, unorthodox way to pass 90 minutes. (Tuna says: It is an ok foreign comedy, hence a C.)

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