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Jobless Adman Makes a Fever Pitch

MOVIE REVIEW
As Luck Would Have It (2013)

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Sundance Selects

With the participation of Salma Hayek, one would hope that “As Luck Would Have It” could finally help launch Álex de la Iglesia from relative obscure cultdom to the international acclaim enjoyed by fellow zany Spanish melodramatist, Pedro Almodóvar. After all, Mr. de la Iglesia has delivered over the years an oeuver that includes such pure lunacy as “The Last Circus,” a Franco-era allegory involving murderous circus clowns; “El crimen perfecto,” about a lothario marrying a homely and crazy woman after she witnessed him accidentally killing a man and blackmailed him; and “The Day of the Beast,” in which a basque priest attempts to stop the birth of the Antichrist.

While his English debut “The Oxford Murders” was misguidedly serious and suffered a limited release after two years on the shelf, Mr. de la Iglesia is squarely back in familiar territory with “As Luck Would Have It”: Roberto (José Mota) is an unemployed adman who keeps up appearances for the sake of his prized wife Luisa (Ms. Hayek). After an unsuccessful job interview with a former colleague, Roberto travels down memory lane to find the hotel where he and Luisa enjoyed their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the place is now the site of an archeological dig, and Roberto accidentally falls and impales himself through his skull. While on life-support, he finds himself in the national media spotlight and attempts to cut various product-placement deals to secure his family’s future.

At first glance, the film promises the kind of biting satire on consumerism that Mr. de la Iglesia crafted so expertly with “El crimen perfecto.” The subject is just so current and ripe for social commentaries, given the universally bad economy and high unemployment. But for some unbeknownst reason, in “As Luck Would Have It” the idea seems half-baked; and Mr. de la Iglesia is merely phoning it in. Even “Big Shot’s Funeral” — an awfully pedestrian film about a Chinese cameraman selling corporate sponsorships to fund an extravagant funeral for a has-been Hollywood director played by Donald Sutherland — executed that premise more successfully. Fans know Mr. de la Iglesia is due for his own “Heavenly Creatures” or “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but it’s too bad that he has squandered yet another opportunity.

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