I have yet, it seems, to drink the Kool-Aid when it comes to Pedro Almodovar. The guy is very well regarded, so much so that the marketing departments credit him on his film posters merely by his last name. I, however, don’t quite see him joining the echelon of the elite directors of all time; he’s very good, at least with his narrow focus, but he hasn’t touched true greatness yet. As such, I didn’t really expect a truly great film, above and beyond the ones to follow, with this, the film that first brought him international recognition. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown either establishes or continues the hallmarks of Almodovar’s career; strong women protagonists (with good actors), a good script and characterization, and an almost lackadaisical attitude to keeping the plot moving. As his breakthrough film, I didn’t expect any more than that, and I pretty much got exactly that.
This is normally where I’d get into the plot, but the plot of this one is so wildly all over the place that almost any attempt would just be confusing, and would probably do more to discourage you from attempting a film so crazy than get you to see the film (but then again, that may end up being a good thing). Much like All About My Mother, the story of this one wasn’t really sewn together all that well. In the (less than) hour and a half that the film takes up, it was a good half hour into the film that I finally glanced at the clock and found myself slightly befuddled that I still didn’t have a good grip as to what the film was really about. There were shreds of a plot involving a woman and her would-be ex-lover, who both act as voiceover dub artists for foreign markets, as well as a friend who has unknowingly harbored suspected terrorists in her home, and the ex-lover’s previous wife, who’s just been released from a mental hospital, and how they all crash and collide together, usually at the protagonist’s penthouse. That’s about as much of a plot summary as I think I can piece together. What I did like about the film was pretty much what I did end up liking about Almodovar’s other films; the good acting, the strong script, and the interesting characters. As for the technicals, the film was put together well enough, even if the “putting together” itself was rather overt. There’s some complicated shots, done with a good amount of technicality, which seems to be a symbol of the burgeoning filmmaker. Whether Almodovar was still a burgeoning filmmaker at this point in his career, I can’t say, but the film certainly looks it.
I read some other reviews on this one that labeled the film as a comedy, and in hindsight, I would have to agree, just for lack of any other genre to pin this one down in. It was the kind of comedy that derives its humor from how absurd the situations get, and not anything that is actually laughably funny. I will say this, though; the film is aptly titled. All the situations in the film just get more and more hectic and stressful and chaotic that it’s no wonder one of the characters tries to throw herself off a balcony near the beginning of the film. That said, I didn’t really enjoy this as much as I hoped I would. I wasn’t expecting this to fully convert me into an Almodovar fan, but I was at least expecting to become a supporter of his, and I don’t think I can honestly say that I am after seeing this. As backwards as it may seem considering how all over the place the film’s plot is, I just felt that this didn’t do enough to be successful to a film fan of my tastes. It might be a cultural divide, or it might be that I’ve just never cared for screwball comedies; I don’t know. You might fare better than I did, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10