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Mama Drama

'My Mother Likes Women' is a sparse farce

By Richard von Busack

NOTHING DISRUPTS the digestion like a bad farce, and My Mother Likes Women is as bad as they come. I saw it on the morning after the citizens of Missouri bravely went to the polls to arm themselves against their gay population; maybe the ratio is one gay person to 300,000 Show Me State straights, but they can't afford to take chances. Even that act of craven discrimination didn't add any resonance to this cluttered and tired comedy from Spain.

A Madrid family from the intellectual upper echelon is thrown into confusion when the mother, Sofía (Rosa María Sardà), takes the occasion of her birthday party to announce that she's fallen in love with a woman. The girlfriend is the willowy Eliska (Eliska Sirová), a concert pianist like Sofía, only some 30 years younger and Czech.

Sofía's three daughters take the news very badly. The three--named after the women in Spain's epic poem El Cid--don't get over it in the days following the party, either. Gimena (María Pujalte) is terrified of what her young son will think of her gay grandma; her middle sister, Elvira (Leonor Watling), besieges her psychiatrist. Twitching like Herbert Lom in the Pink Panther movies, Elvira wonders if she's going to catch a hereditary case of lesbianism from her mother. And littlest sister Sol (Silvia Abascal)--she's supposed to be the lead singer for Madrid's answer to No Doubt--composes a song about how mortifying it is to have a mother who's lesbian. (However bigoted, the song was sort of the high point of the movie; Abascal knows how to fake a rock singer's moves a little better than the average actress.)

The three distraught daughters come up with a brilliant plan: If one of them could seduce Eliska, it would break up this socially embarrassing relationship. Sol tries hard, coming on to Eliska during a lakeside picnic, with the subtlety of a sailor on leave. ("Do you want to see my tattoo?"). Ultimately, it's Elvira who gets the short straw. Her job of seduction is badly timed, since she's starting to date a dreamboat author named Miguel (Chisco Amado), who has to be held at arms' length before everything's settled.

While the show is full of ex-Almodovar actors, there's nothing really subversive about My Mother Likes Women. It can hardly be called risky in the same summer when the Scissor Sisters have a hit about taking your mom to a gay bar. The comedy isn't really aimed at the creepy, nigh-incestousness of these three interfering daughters trying to "get off with" Eliska (that's the way the subtitles translate it). There might be some perverted fun in this, if Eliska was too luscious to resist, stirring up feelings in the daughters. But Sirová is the colorless, aesthetic type, and it would be hard for a camera to pick her out of a crowd. On the contrary, we're supposed to feel for the social embarrassment of the sisters, and for Elvira's drama. It takes most of two hours to get to the moral: "No one ever died of having a lesbian mother."

My Mother Likes Women (Unrated; 93 min.), directed and written by Inés París and Daniela Fejerman, photographed by David Omedes and starring Leonor Watling, Rosa María Sardà, Maria Pujalte and Silvia Abascal, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the August 11-17, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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