Bonet’s family is a real risk-pool buster. Sure, her husband’s experimental treatment
is easy enough to disallow, but her resulting crime spree is harder to sweep
under the rug. Their lucky son Dario gets to witness it all in Rodrigo Plá’s A Monster with a Thousand Heads (trailer here), which screens
during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Neighboring Scenes: New Latin American Cinema film series.
and screenwriter (wife) Laura Santullo do not waste time with a lot of medical rigmarole.
Sonia’s husband Guillermo is dying of something, but a radical new treatment
caused measurable improvement. However, they had to mortgage their home for the
first round of narrative widgets. To continue, they need their insurance
company, Alta Salud, to reverse its decision. Unfortunately, Guillermo is
relapsing rather badly. Desperate for help, Bonet camps out waiting for his
doctor at the corporate headquarters, which makes Alta Salud look more like a
managed care conglomerate. Of course, Dr. Villalba and the front office staff
give her the run-around so Bonet follows him home, taking the doctor and his wife
hostage in a half-planned act of madness.
to the sympathetic Mrs. Villalba’s information, Bonet heads off to the racquet to
target the company president and HR director (who really shouldn’t have
anything to do with customer coverage issues). The old president is a pretty
cool cucumber, but the slimy HR hack makes a lunge for Bonet’s, taking one in the
leg as a result. That should basically seal Bonet’s fate, as we can gather from
the suspense-killing flashforwards to her criminal trial, but she still has an
extended dance to play out with Alta Salud’s morally ambiguous president.
and Santullo made a big international splash with the class conscious La Zona (The Zone), which had its
excesses, but still manages to pull viewers through at a brisk gallop. While Monster shares surface similarities, it
lacks the best known collaboration’s super slickness—and it is rather missed.
In a way, Monster manages to be
half-pregnant most of the time, wagging its finger at insurance/managed care
companies at what they have reduced Bonet to, but it never lets her cut loose like
an Uwe Boll leftist vengeance-taker.
Rulay is convincingly frantic and frayed as Bonet. Plá forces her to walk a
precarious tightrope with righteousness on one side and full blown psychosis on
the other, but she largely pulls it off. Arguably, Emilio Echeverria’s performance
as the president is either the film’s greatest strength or weakness. It is a
surprisingly subtle, nuanced turn that makes it difficult to demonize the old
goat. That would be problematic if Monster
were a true revenge thriller, but Plá is not about providing vicarious
is so frustrating, because there is so much
visceral energy in individual scenes, yet it does so much to undermine its
overall impact. Plá is a filmmaker worth following, but La Zona remains his most successful politically charged thriller to
date. Primarily for those looking to applaud its message, Monster with a Thousand Heads screens this Saturday night (1/9) at
the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s Neighboring Scenes film series.
Labels: Mexican Cinema, Neighboring Scenes '16, Rodrigo Pla