[From April 19th to the 29th, Flixist will bring you live coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Keep an eye out for news, features, interviews, videos, and reviews of some of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit in 2012.]
When people ask what I'm majoring in, I tell them that my school doesn't have majors. After they punch me in the face and tell me to stop being an ass, I tell them I'm concentrating in media studies. I think the media is amazing, and the way it is changing and has changed is fascinating. So it makes sense that I would like As Luck Would Have It. Although As Luck Would Have It doesn't deal with newer, social media, it is still relevant to any ongoing discussions about the impacts the media have.
So it's about a topic I love, but being about something interesting isn't enough. There needs to be something to back it up. Fortunately, As Luck Would Have It has something behind it. And it has that thing in spades.
As Luck Would Have It (La Chispa de la Vida)
Roberto Gomez (Jose Mota) is a modern-day Willy Loman. He was once a big ad executive (or so he says) who has been through a big rough patch. He can’t find a job, he’s convinced his family thinks he’s a failure, and he has no idea what do next. After another unsuccessful job interview, Roberto goes to find the Hotel Paraíso, where he and his wife, Luisa (Salma Hayek), had their honeymoon years ago. As it turns out, Hotel Paraíso is no more. An ancient, Colosseum-esque theater had been unearthed beneath it, and it was destroyed in the excavation. Roberto finds himself there on the day of its unveiling and, after entering a restricted area, falls several stories, landing on an iron rod which stuck into his head. As my Spanish teacher would say: “Hubo un accidente.”
The thing is, the accident itself is not that important. It’s everything that surrounds it. Just minutes after Roberto falls, the city’s mayor turns on the theater’s floodlights and shows it to dozens of cameras and crewmembers. But they don’t care about that, because they see a huddled group down on the stage. The cameras rush down to see what happened, and soon the news goes global. Every news station reports on the accident (although some speculate it was a suicide attempt). Newspaper headlines focus on that alone. And in the middle of all of the chaos Roberto, who can’t move but does his best to take advantage of it in some way or another. He hires an agent to get him the best deal on an interview. He wants to provide for his family, and this is his best opportunity.
To simply say that As Luck Would Have It is a commentary on the age of mass media would be to sell it short. Yes, it is, and blatantly so. Director Álex de la Iglesia seems to have some kind of vendetta against the media, and that is made loud and clear. But by getting so many people involved who are not a part of the media involved, the film takes on a larger issue. It’s about media reaction and then reaction to the media. And it doesn’t feel over the top. I kind of wish it did. The random people who entered the theater with the “Todos somos Roberto Gomez” (We are all Roberto Gomez) signs should seem out of place, but they don’t. Every group, whether they are onscreen for three seconds or thirty minutes, is important to portraying the way the world reacts to this kind of event.
There are two very different storylines at play in As Luck Would Have It. There is the more personal, character-driven family drama of Roberto and his family, while they deal with what has happened and what is happening around them. Then there’s what is happening around them. There is very little overlap between them, and the overlap that does occur is all very significant.
The most interesting reactions to the whole thing come from the people who interact with but do not know Roberto. The security guards, doctors, his aforementioned agent, and everybody else who comes in direct contact with him have own agendas. Some of them just want to be on TV. Others want to be as helpful as possible. Then there are others who have much more sinister motives.
It’s clear that, whether he dies or not, Roberto’s story is a tragic one, but there are glimmers of hope. He wants his children to go to the best schools and take his wife on the best vacation. He creates an air of mystery about himself in order to drive up his own worth as a news story in hopes of pulling in money for an exclusive interview. He’s selfish, but his selfishness is backed up by a real desire to do right by his family. His family is an odd sort, but they love him, and seeing them all together is heartwarming (or heartbreaking, given the circumstances).
But that heartbreak is mixed with some truly hilarious comedy. Some of the media reactions are fantastically stupid, and there are some really great back-and-forth between the characters. It lightens up the mood just enough to keep things bearable throughout, but it never gets in the way of the drama. Nothing ever comes off as obnoxious or breaks the mood. It all feels completely natural.
Until right at the end, when it ends on a freeze frame. I fucking hate freeze frames.