' ' Cinema Romantico: Extraterrestrial

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Julia (Michelle Jenner) and Julio (Julian Villagran) awake in Julia's apartment post-one night stand. Things are awkward. They turn more awkward when they realize the cable is out, the phones don't work, the internet is down, and the streets are empty. Then they see it - a rotund alien ship hovering in the sky above their nameless Spanish city.

Julia's next-door neighbor Angel (Carlos Areces) - Jack Black recast in a more comedic "Shining" - stops by to helpfully explain the military showed up earlier and took people away for their own safety. He stayed behind because he couldn't get ahold of Julia because it seems he might have a thing for Julia and, thus, a grudge against Julio.

Julia's boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) problematically shows up, having traveled on foot from his university. He is suspicious of the government's handling of this alien crisis and he is suspicious of Angel because he has ALWAYS been suspicious of Angel and this potential extraterrestrial invasion has just made him MORE suspicious. He thinks Angel is not what he seems. But he is not necessarily suspicious of Julio even though Julio slept with his girlfriend (not that he knows Julio slept with his girlfriend). Or did he? Julia and Julio seem strangely unsure. But even if they didn't that doesn't meant they won't.

"Extraterrestrial", written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, believe it or not, is sort of "The Twilight Zone" by way of "Bug" by way of an old-fashioned screwball comedy. If that sounds like a hodgepodge, well, it sure is. It uses sci-fi as a jumping off point to make a film that basically takes place in one spot for 90+ minutes and psychologically explores who and what we really are weaving in a love triangle - make that, a love quadrangle.

If it was ever possible to accuse a Chamber Drama of trying to do much, it's this one. As a comedy it really only succeeds with its most random bits (tennis, anyone?) and Jenner's hysterically soulful bug eyes. As a thriller it relies too much on black & white flashbacks and talking heads near the end to explain everything away, thereby robbing it off genuine suspense. As a wildly offbeat romance it pretty much fails by failing to pay proper attention the primary romance it's cultivating because it's too busy trying to be funny and thrilling.

In the end, none of it feels all that legitimate. It's a film that - much like its mostly unseen aliens - has no inspiration beyond screwing with us.

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