Picks and Pans Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

updated 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The plot concerns women who are driven to madness, suicide and murder by men. It's a comedy—a wild, wanton, wickedly witty farce from post-Franco Spain's hottest new writer-director, Pedro Almodóvar. Remember that name. Since 1984, Almodóvar's incendiary films (What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Matador, Law of Desire) have been collecting prizes at international film festivals. Women, less blatantly erotic and violent than his other work, is that rare foreign-language film destined for success beyond the art house circuit. Almodóvar has given his film the high-style look of a typical Hollywood comedy of the '50s, say, Pillow Talk. But the merry malice with which he approaches the subjects of sex, politics and religion has nothing in common with Doris Day fluff. Carmen Maura, a regular in the director's films, delivers one of the year's most potently funny performances as a TV commercial actress and film dubber who goes bananas when her cheating lover (Fernando Guillén) walks out on her. Pregnant and miserable, she pillages their penthouse apartment, burns their bed and combs the town—in fashionable heels and short skirt—in an effort to corner the rat. In the meantime the apartment fills up with the oddest characters since the Marx Brothers phoned room service. There's the lover's gun-toting ex-wife (Julieta Serrano), his grown son (Antonio Banderas), the son's girl (Rossy De Palma), a friend of Maura's (Maria Barranco) who has just discovered her lover is a Shi'ite terrorist and a collection of daffy cops, repairmen and taxi drivers. There's also the doped gazpacho to explain. But why bother? There's only one thing to do about this invigorating movie joyride: Hop on. (In Spanish, with subtitles; R)

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