Common Wealth (2000)

 “I could go around the world until I get dizzy.”

common-wealthThe Spanish comedy Common Wealth (La Comunidad) from director Alex de la Iglesia is for those who like their comedy dark, energetic, full of surprises and packed with peculiar characters. Think Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown meets Shallow Grave with an element of Neighbours thrown in for good measure. It’s brilliant, extremely funny, and also somewhat macabre.

Savvy Madrid Real estate agent Julia (Carmen Maura) has to sell a beautiful, posh apartment. It’s the sort of place that she and her mismatched husband could never afford. She invites him over to whoop it up and suggests that they “savagely desecrate this holy waterbed” little realizing that enjoying material comforts they can never afford is something he’d rather not be exposed to. Julia’s relationship with her bouncer husband captures the essence and pettiness of domestic squabbles that are laced with subtle yet bitter recriminations based on financial disappointments. While romping around, Julia makes the horrible discovery that the apartment upstairs contains the rotting corpse of a reclusive millionaire. When she uncovers the dead man’s secret stash of money, Julia realizes (the hard way) that the apartment building’s tenants consider the money theirs and will stop at nothing to get the money away from her.

Common Wealth contains the sort of wild, frenetic energy that’s reminiscent of Almodovar, and the film’s clever plot twists keep the viewer engaged to the very end. The first half of the film is much stronger (and funnier) than the second half, but it’s a powerfully funny, engaging package. The story explores the voracious nature of human greed, and how seemingly ‘normal’ people revert to their uglier, baser instincts when a large sum of money is at stake. The comedy element here is fresh and just unhinged enough to be absolutely marvelous. Julia is a splendid creation–she’s hard-edged, ambitious, and crafty, and all these characteristics rise to the surface under adversity. One of the best characters is the middle-aged son of one of the tenants who sports a Darth Vader costume to become a Vader Voyeur. When discussing Julia, he suggests “we should take her to the dark side.” If you enjoy this film, I also recommend Crimen Perfecto (aka Crimen Ferpecto). In Spanish with English subtitles.

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Filed under Carmen Maura, Comedy, Spain

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