Metro Weekly

20 centimeters

Reel Affirmations 2006

20 centimetros

Review by Randy Shulman

Rating: starstarstarstar (4 out of 5)

Saturday, 10/14/2006, 9:30 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre

MEET MARIETA, a narcoleptic Madrid prostitute with a proverbial heart-of-gold… not to mention a formidable penis. The transsexual pre-op is the floral, fragrant centerpiece in this musical bouquet from director Ramon Salazar. It’s a wild ride, rife with fantasy, rooted in realism. And it utterly dazzles you, as it evokes every movie musical style from Gene Kelly to Bob Fosse to Bossa Nova to those crazy street-dancing kids from Fame.

Marieta, who longs to rid herself of the offending organ, has saved her money to ”get rid of the spare bit of flesh.”

”I’m having my operation next year,” she informs one of her street-hustling pals. ”Why?” the pal snaps back. ”Your pecker is what earns the money!” It also snags her a surprise beau in the form of a hunky grocery fruit stocker, portrayed with sexual sizzle by Pablo Puyol. Inevitably, the choice comes down to the man of Marieta’s fantasies, or a vagina.

Salazar’s screenplay is sharp and snappy. ”She needs a good fuck,” says one of the working girls, to which Marieta responds, ”Nobody needs a bad one.” And he fleshes out the material with ancillary characters who, if they don’t always make logical sense to the story, such as Marieta’s gay dwarf roommate who makes a living scalping opera tickets, at least lend it color.

But where 20 Centimeters soars is in its flights of musical fantasy, the likes of which are rarely seen in screen musicals these days. They’re colorful, joyful miniature films within the film, byproducts of Marieta’s narcoleptic dreamstates (which gives Salazar an excuse not to have his characters break into song for no apparent reason). Each number grows successively more elaborate than the last, going higher and higher over-the-top until you’ll swear you’re watching angels in heaven. It’s a rare case of excess never quite being enough.

20 Centimeters probably wouldn’t work as wonderfully as it does were it not for the breathtakinig, unflaggingly energetic performance from Spain’s Monica Cervera, whose angular, hard beauty transmits a sense life-toughened masculinity. By turns wickedly funny, viciously biting, and sweepingly romantic, Cervera glides effortlessly from showy showpiece to gritty realism, offering up one of the finest portraits ever of a man who would be a woman. — RS

20 centimeters
Randy Shulman is Metro Weekly's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at rshulman@metroweekly.com.