Toronto 2015 Review: MY BIG NIGHT, Splendidly Controlled Chaos
Opening with a pop-funk musical number that is as toe-tapping as it is glossy and fake, we are dropped into the midst of a large TV network, furiously shooting its live New Year's spectacular. Only, it is actually October, the audience members are paid extras, and everything is staged. The food and drink are as plastic as the smiles and the laughs. The studio is embroiled in a massive labour protest after recently laying off hundreds of employees, and the street outside threatens to erupt into war. Meanwhile, on the main sound-stage, the show must go on. The special is weeks behind and the non-union staff and players are forbidden to leave the lot until this over-budgeted clusterfuck is complete.
Making fine use of his large stable of regular players, in addition to Spanish musical icon Raphael, who had kind of a spiritual cameo in the climax of Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus but here is more central to the story playing a grotesque hybrid of himself and Tom Jones. Several overlapping stories are quickly established and developed over the course of 24 hours.
The two 'power-couple' hosts (Hugo Silva, Carolina Bang) are fighting over their exposure in the script as well as their marriage. The son of the headlining act Alphonso (Raphael), played by Carlos Areces in a blonde buzz cut and moustache, has hired an assassin (Jaime Ordóñez) to speed along his inheritance, but the killer has designs on being a songwriter and is a massive fan. Two conniving women steal the sperm of a Fabio-esque pop-star (Mario Casas) in the hopes of blackmail. (I will not spoil how they, ahem, pull this off.) The camera operators nearly kill an extra during a tricky crane shot, and his schlubby replacement (Pepón Nieto) is forced to bring his senile, cross-bearing mom onto the set, and, oddly, is flirted with by a woman way out of his league (Blanca Suárez). The owner of the network (Santiago Segura) is still working his way through a downsizing list and the two lesbian producer-editors (Carmen Machi and Carmen Ruiz) feel they may get the axe.
With these elements, and unbelievably, several more, in play, de la Iglesia throws all the balls in the air and juggles characters and scenarios with with rat-a-tat dialogue and brash pacing, commensurate to the environment of under the gun television. It is as if the director loved the opening Club Obiwan sequence of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and decided to reframe it as a feature length satire of Spanish pop entertainment. My Big Night is not particularly deep, but it boogies to the rhythm and has more big laughs than I care to count.
If, after 90 minutes of skillfully sustained chaos in a contained space, the film kind of peters out into the sunlight, unsure of what just happened or where to go, well, that is the kind of artificial TV experience it is trying to mimic. Don't hate the player, hate the game.