Friday, September 14, 2007

TIFF 2007: Deficit (Mexico)

Deficit (Mexico) directed by Gael Garcia Bernal
Friday September 14th, 2007

This is Mexican heart throb Bernal's directorial debut. I first became aware of Bernal in the superb The Motorcycle Diaries, a film which reenacts a trip that the then aspiring young doctor and soon to be revolutionary Che Guevara made across South America. See this link for an anti-Che Guevara take on the film (a view I have not explored before). Bernal has made some interesting choices since then playing the cross dressing Zahara in Almodovar's Bad Education (2004); a convincingly vicious Mexican malcontent in Babel (2006) and a quirky romantic in the The Science of Sleep (2006).

Here he plays a spoiled Mexican yuppie who fails to get into Harvard business school after being pressured by his affluent, overachieving economist (possibly criminal) father into applying. Instead he seems to spend his time in as hedonistic and selfish fashion as possible and as the film opens is preparing for a party with some friends at his parents' home.

You know it will end in tears ... someone OD's on Ecstasy, his girlfriend finds him with another girl; he jealously attacks the young gardener who has been eyeing his latest conquest; his friends are shown to be racist, selfish, stupid. It all feels a little false and Bernal, while still young and very attractive, seems a little long in the tooth to portray a young man on the cusp of attending post-graduate school.

Are we meant be completely annoyed by the antics of his frivolous, stupid friends? Is there not one redeeming character (except for the young Argentine beauty he is after) that we can sympathize with? What is the message here? That the Mexican upper classes are criminal, uncaring, racist? This is not a new or particularly nuanced view and Bernal brings nothing fresh to the story.

Based on the tepid applause at the end of the film, I think I was not alone in my feelings despite the considerable charm with which Bernal presented the film and answered the questions in the subsequent Q&A.

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