Once esteemed but now ignored star of the screen Mara Ordaz (Graciela Borges) is living out her twilight years in a rustic old mansion with her husband and erstwhile co-star Pedro (Luis Brandoni), director Norberto (Oscar Martínez) and screenwriter Martín (the sadly recently departed Marcos Mundstock). The foursome are set in their ways and consistently rub each other up in the wrong ones, but their existence is ploddingly pleasant… until the peace is upset by the arrival of two cocksure young upstarts from the big city.
Bárbara (Clara Lago) and Francisco (Nicolás Francella) masquerade as two urban dwellers who are hopelessly lost in the Argentinian boondocks, until they ‘just happen’ to stumble across the abode of Mara, who they ‘just happen’ to recognise as the big name she dreams she still is. Within minutes, however, the pair are smooth-talking Mara into selling her grand old country house and moving back to the city to give the silver screen a second chance. Her hapless husband Pedro is equally charmed by the couple’s barefaced flattery, but Norberto and Martín both smell a rat – or perhaps more precisely, a weasel.
Thus ensues a game of cat and mouse wherein the two teams square off against each other, trading pithy jibes and snarky remarks, with Mara and Pedro stuck in the middle. Indeed, the intrigue over the couple’s tumultuous marriage carries the only threadbare emotion the film possesses, especially when decades-old cans of worms are given a dusting-off and still-lingering insecurities are dragged into the light. Aside from this glimpse of humanity, however, The Weasels’ Tale is more of a study in arrogance and affectation. Just when it seems like the smug assurance of the youngsters is going to be their downfall, the tables are turned by a similar oversight on the part of their elders – and then back again.
The trouble is, the message that pride comes before a fall is hammered home so heartily that pretty much the entire ensemble come off as preening, self-obsessed and utterly unlikeable. This means that just when the audience should be on tenterhooks to learn which way the egg will roll, there’s little incentive to root for either side. What’s worse, the plot itself is as creaky as the mansion that plays the backdrop to it, stuffed full of improbable accidents, coincidences and set pieces.
There are some things to admire. The script is snappily written, and although the razor-sharp dialogue doesn’t sound remotely like the speech of real humans, it does contain several well-crafted jokes that hit their mark in a sort of geriatric-Guy-Ritchie kind of way. The cinematography and direction are both competently handled, while the performances are all on point too, especially from the four older hands. Unfortunately, those saving graces don’t outweigh the ludicrousness of the story or the antipathy of the characters, meaning The Weasels’ Tale is a huge step down from Campanilla’s Oscar-winning effort from 2009, but satisfactory enough as a piece of candyfloss melodrama all the same.
Screening as part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2020