The world of prestige filmmaking is ripe for satire. Big egos, big budgets, and presumed importance are easy to make fun of. Now, to make a movie about those things? That’s proven harder than expected for the industry to pull off. So, it’s nice to see that the comedy Official Competition, playing at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival (where I finally got to see it, as my intended screening last year at the Toronto International Film Festival didn’t end up happening) succeeds where other flicks have failed. While not perfect, there’s enough fun here to warrant a recommendation if you enjoy a pitch black comedy.
Official Competition has some good laughs in it, though one can make the argument that it never kicks into a next gear. It’s funny, but it’s not quite hilarious. At the same time, it has a good idea of what it’s satirizing, and that’s always a plus. Too often, films set in the industry don’t feel realistic. Even when this one goes off the wall, it feels rooted in experiences that, sadly, likely occurred. That helps to set this one apart from the pack.
When billionaire Humberto Suárez (José Luis Gómez) decides he wants to get into the film industry, he wants to make a movie that will be an all-timer. To that end, he sets up a dream team to realize his vision. Humberto hires international auteur director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) as his filmmaker, followed by Hollywood heartthrob Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) veteran stage actor Ivan Torres (Oscar Martínez) as his cast. If all goes well, they’ll be making a cinematic masterpiece. Instead, cinematic chaos ensues.
Lola is an award-winning director, but she has an ego to match her skills. Felix and Ivan can’t get along. Costs are spiraling. And that doesn’t even take into account the unusual rehearsals that Lola has planned. Nothing is going as planned, but will it all result in classic cinema? It builds to a surprising conclusion, but perhaps not the one you’re expecting.
Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz are clearly having the times of their lives here. Oscar Martínez is too, but Banderas and Cruz are undisputedly the highlights. Banderas gets to send up the image of a Hollywood star, while Cruz takes a sharp skewer to auteur filmmakers. In particular, a scene where she destroys a bunch of trophies is a riot. Supporting players, aside from José Luis Gómez, include Irene Escolar, Manolo Solo, and more. Without question, however, Banderas and Cruz are the reasons to see this.
Directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, along with their co-writer Andrés Duprat, throw a lot of satirical elements at the wall. Most of it sticks, too. Official Competition goes in some odd directions, especially in the final moments, but as a niche satire, it definitely is successful. The film could stand to have been a bit tighter, pacing wise, but with good humor and solid performances, there’s plenty to like.
Official Competition is a decent amount of fun, even if it could have been even more of a laugh riot. The movie is a good time, especially if you’re wise to the filmmaking world. Among the bigger movies playing at Tribeca this year, it won’t leave a huge impact, but it goes down easy and makes you smile. Frankly, you could do a lot worse than that.