Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Movie Review: Tired of Kissing Frogs (Cansada de Besar Sapos)

Title: Tired of Kissing Frogs (Cansada de Besar Sapos)
Director: Jorge Colón
Year Released: 2006
Running Time: 100 minutes
Classification: R
Genre: Romantic comedy

Generally speaking, you don’t watch romantic comedies for their ability to broaden your worldview. What you want is a fun and wish-fulfilling love story that can make you happy (until you go home alone and realise that you have absolutely no one – no one at all – and that you are so, so lonely and the only thing that can numb your pain for now is a tub of ice-cream, eaten in front of the TV, cat optional). With this in mind, I sat down to Tired of Kissing Frogs with low expectations, curious as to how a Mexican romcom would differ from the usual (English-language) ones. To my surprise, the film 1) adhered to the typical (Western) romcom tropes – including the stupid ones – and 2) was shockingly, painfully dull.

The premise of the movie is your typical silly romcom premise: our heroine Martha (Ana Serradilla or Mexican Natalie Portman) catches her boyfriend cheating on her and dumps his ass. Having been thusly burned, she joins an online dating service called “Cansada de besar sapos” and decides to “act like a man” – that is, become a ~playa. Of course, Martha goes on dates but doesn’t actually sleep around – we can’t have a slut as a heroine after all – and on the side she strikes up a friendship with cute waiter/aspiring actor Xavier (José María de Tavira). And, well, guess what happens. Go on, guess.

In addition to this set-up there are the usual romcom staples: Andi (Ana Leyevska) is Martha’s sassy best friend and colleagues Joaquin (gay and wry) and Daniela (kinky and ditzy) serve as comic relief. Add in a “crazy” scene where Martha and Andi have to dress up as strippers and you have all the ingredients for a romcom. Yet somehow, the recipe doesn’t quite work.

Mainly, I think it’s the pacing and the script and the entire logic of it all. Things happen so slowly that you can see all the events – the breakup, the dating montages, the misunderstanding – lined up before you long before they come to pass. It’s no fun when you get to the scenes either; they’re already tired by the time they arrive, having come at you with the speed and subtlety of an approaching street cleaner. Another consequence of this is that you find it really easy to spot all the irrational, nonsensical situations in the story (such as the whole playa thing) without losing track of or being distracted by what’s going on on screen.

I’m pretty tolerant of dumb premises, but in this case, everything is so workman-like and clichéd that it all comes across as bland bland bland. The story and the dialogue are so stock standard that it feels like a checklist for a romcom rather than a romcom itself. During the parts where they needed character or relationship development or whatever, there’d often be some sort of montage with a song. You get the feeling that the writers put in a montage and a song whenever they didn’t know what to write. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of montages and a lot of songs.

Worse, quite a bit of it is poorly edited. I normally don’t notice these sorts of things but by golly I noticed it here. Not only are the montages poorly put together (the music changes can be abrupt) but you also become actively conscious of the different cuts. It’s clumsily done and there are times you notice things like the colours or lighting or “look” being different between shots. The bright side of this I guess is that I have a newfound appreciation the work done by editors and continuity checkers.

Not even the novelty (to me) of its Mexican origins helped alleviate the dullness. Like the cast, the city setting is stylish, pretty and strangely vanilla, with nary a cultural quirk to be found. Had the dialogue been in English I could have easily believed that we were somewhere in the US or Britain.

I mean, I guess they tried. The performances aren’t bad and the actors do what they can with what they’re given. Ana Serradilla brings a liveliness and likeability to Martha and there are some genuinely funny moments throughout. There’s also a realism to the story and romance, particularly towards the end, and this lends a sense of freshness to the movie. As a result, the relationships seem real and relatable.

The flip side of this of course, is that realism is boring. If I wanted to know what ~real life~ is like, I’d just go outside. Sometimes, I wondered if it was the realism that made the movie feel way longer than it was, but then I’d remember the “crazy” shenanigans near the beginning and remember that that was boring too. Just because the characters are doing wild things doesn’t mean the movie itself is wild. The most intriguing thing I found about this film was its lesson in how much technology had changed between 2006 and today. Needless to say, that’s not a good sign.

Alex’s Rating: 1.5/5