Thursday, April 11, 2002

Liberty in license

Movie: Y Tu Mama Tambien

Posted on Thu, Apr 11, 2002 at 4:00 AM

****
Our Rating: 4.00

The Mexican comedy/drama "Y Tu Mamá También" ("And your mother, too") is raising eyebrows for its graphic sexuality, but this sweet sizzler of a film is just as notable for the philosophical scope it brings to its deceptively simple story of two horny teens and a slightly older woman on a car trip to a coital utopia.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's camera swoops and snakes across the screen, bringing peeping-Tom curiosity to the adventures of Tenoch (Diego Luna), the scion of a well-connected Mexico City family, and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), his less prosperous but equally hormonal best friend. Endlessly beguiled by the pleasures of youth -- boffing their girlfriends, toking weed, beating off, sleeping late and conducting full-scale wars of flatulence -- these two have nothing to lose when they break the boredom of a grown-up wedding by making a fumbling, drunken pass at Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the exotic Spanish wife of Tenoch's cousin. Something about the boys' brashness appeals to Luisa, and her husband's subsequent admission of infidelity emboldens her to accept their invitation to a beach paradise called Heaven's Mouth.

Its suggestive name is a strong clue that the location does not in fact exist, which makes for a very long car ride as the boys try not to let on that they have invented the beach out of whole cloth as a seduction technique. Their physical fascination with the sexy Luisa -- a dental technician with the wide mouth of a Latina Carly Simon -- is met and then trumped by her eagerness to indulge every impulse her new freedom will allow. In search of a mythical destination, these three are also chasing a metaphorical mirage: a place where everyone can screw everyone else without anyone getting screwed over.

Were this the limit of the film's concerns, "Y Tu Mamá También" would qualify as interesting but naive, a relic better suited to a summer-of-love time capsule. But director Alfonso Cuar'n and his brother, Carlos (who co-wrote the script), are of a graver mindset, interrupting the action at regular intervals for narration that explains how their characters' behavior has been determined by personal tragedies and socioeconomic forces. Likewise, many scenes end with the camera trailing away from the three leads and momentarily fixating on some peripheral business (including police arrests and funerals) transpiring in the lives of the folks Tenoch, Julio and Luisa encounter on their journey. The parallels between this background narrative and the up-front sexual shenanigans are not always overt -- they're hardly as identifiable as, say, the simmering class rivalry that informs the boys' relationship -- and the story takes a jarring turn toward the maudlin. But as a pulsating group portrait of a country balancing youthful passion with the pull of adult responsibility, this movie gets equal play from its hot blood and cool head.

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