Film Review: THE QUEEN OF SPAIN (Spain 2016)

The misadventures of a Spanish crew during the filming of an American movie in 1950’s Spain.

Director: Fernando Trueba
Writer: Fernando Trueba
Stars: Penélope Cruz, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE QUEEN OF SPAIN arrives after its Gala Selection at Berlinale 2017. The film is the sequel to Fernando Trueba’s 1998 drama THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS which also starred Penelope Cruz in a story set during the Spanish Civil War with Josef Goebbels falling in love with Macarena Granada. The film, though not many are familiar with in North America won seven Goya Awards including best film and best actress for Cruz. But what is more well known, is that Cruz and director Trueba worked together on the 1992 film BELLE EPOQUE which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. With that, THE QUEEN OF SPAIN aroused sufficient interest to get commercial distribution.

The film is not as good as the other two, and in fact quite a disappointment, considering the film’s setting and its ambitious political intentions. Trueba injects lots of comedy and melodrama and the kind of goings-on during the filming of a movie. The film is fun to watch but could have developed into much more.

There are many stories – in fact a few too many on display in the film. The most important of all is to the one considering Cruz’s character but a film director, Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines) that has got into a lot of political trouble in the past. He suddenly appears at the start of the film, like a ghost as everyone though him dead, but is arrested. With so many people in the new film that he has helped in the past, they decide to spring him. The new film that is made is an American Hollywood film shot in Spain by director John Scott (Clive Revill) who is so old, all he can do is shout ‘action’ or ‘cut’ between his naps. The main star from Hollywood is Marcarena Granada (Penelope Cruz) who falls in love with a grip (Chino Darin) on the set. Other subplots include the dandy American actor, Gary Jones (Cary Elwes) and an assorted Spanish crew including a couple (a lesbian and gay man) who marries for convenience.

The setting is the nostalgic age where Hollywood came to Spain. Clearly director Trueba hates politics and Franco for that matter and has a sort of love/hate relationship with Hollywood as depicted in the film. The McCarthy witch hunt in which screenwriters were banned from working in Hollywood is given a nice touch in the film. One such writer arrives in Spain and works under an assumed name.

THE QUEEN Of SPAIN is a well intentioned film which has taken too much on its plate. It still is an entertaining romp – a tribute to the nostalgic filmmaking times of the 50’s – a film in a film. Following its premiere in Berlin, which was met with a long standing ovation, the film was nominated for five Goya Awards held this past March, including a nomination for Cruz as best actress.


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