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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "Problemista"


Julio Torres is a name you may not know off the bat, but he has been a part of the entertainment industry for almost a decade.  Spending most of that time as a writer for Saturday Night Live, he was also the creator, writer, and one of the stars of the critically acclaimed yet short lived Los Espookys amongst other projects.  After some delays, we now have his directorial debut in Problemista, which he also wrote and stars in.

 

Alejandro is his character’s name here, and he is an El Salvadorian immigrant living in New York and pursuing his dream to become a toy designer for Mattel.  When he loses his job, he finds out that he has one month to find a new sponsor for his work visa before he becomes illegally living in America.  Through a strange crossing of paths, he meets Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), an eccentric widow of an artist that Alejandro has a strange connection to.  Their lives become intertwined in ways that neither of them imagine as they both chase after dreams they realize could they may never achieve.

 

I know I have said something like this before, but I feel like this was originally conceived as a one-man show for Torres to play on Broadway due to the way its story unfolds (complete with narration by Isabella Rossellini, that truly adds extra humor to even some of the stranger sequences here).  With its main story interlaced with images and scenes seen from the point of view of Alejandro’s imagination, this could have been an interesting trip and character study of two completely different people who are yin and yang, brought together by fate to complete the other’s journey.  Instead, what winds up on the screen is a bit more artsy than it needs to be with a few scenes that seem to be there for shock value thinly veiled as giving depth to a narrative that really is unnecessary as the characters’ motivations are pretty clear as they are introduced.

 

Torres’ direction is good here, with performances by his cast that are very entertaining, but it just doesn’t make up for a script whose story wasn’t enough to fill the time for a feature but was too much for a short or even a series of short episodes as a limited series.  This isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination; honestly, this will probably end up about the middle of the pack when this year’s list is completely compiled.  I just cannot in good conscience recommend this film outside of a casual viewing at home if it piques your curiosity.

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