Review: As Luck Would Have It

The film suggests a Saturday Night Live sketch that takes itself too seriously.

As Luck Would Have It
Photo: IFC Films

Social critique of such an obvious, unfunny sort that it plays like a Saturday Night Live sketch that takes itself too seriously, As Luck Would Have It charts the mayhem that ensues after an unemployed advertising executive, Roberto (José Mota), suffers an accident that turns him into a nightly-news phenomenon. Beset by emasculation anxieties due to two years of unemployment, hang-ups that his wife, Luisa (Salma Hayek), does her best to counter, showering her husband with love and support, Roberto flops at his latest job interview and, in response, visits the hotel where he and Luisa spent their honeymoon. The establishment has been replaced by a museum that’s about to unveil an ancient Roman amphitheater newly discovered in an archaeological dig—a ceremony that’s sabotaged when Roberto, in an act of implausible ridiculousness, winds up navigating scaffolding, hanging on to a statue suspended by a crane, and then plummeting to the ground, where his head is impaled on an iron rod and he’s left (cue groans) in a Jesus Christ pose. Roberto is rendered immobile but otherwise lucid, which is handy once the press finds him and paparazzi pandemonium erupts, much to the chagrin of museum bigwigs who prize their jobs and artifacts above Roberto’s life, and much to the delight of Roberto himself, who views his circumstances as an opportunity to cash in for the sake of his family.

Director Álex de la Iglesia drums up a more modest brand of carnivalesque delirium than he did in The Last Circus, with his camera freely wheeling around the myriad players who come to inhabit the theater’s center stage—not just Roberto, Luisa, and the museum’s management, but also a self-interested doctor, a noble reporter, an evil TV mogul, and an amoral agent whom Roberto hires to secure lucrative endorsement and interview deals. As Roberto shamelessly attempts to exploit his 15 seconds of fame, As Luck Would Have It hammers home the opinion (espoused by noble Luisa) that family is more important than celebrity or wealth. If that nugget of wisdom weren’t unenlightening enough, Iglesia’s film also caricatures the frenzy that engulfs Roberto as a means of censuring the news media and marketing world as in thrall to tabloid sensationalism and self-interested profiteering.

Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no humor to that analysis, or to the proceedings in general, which pile on additional characters, including Roberto’s goth son and crying daughter, in an effort to further the material’s gonzo-extravaganza atmosphere. Yet, since every character is a one-dimensional type that’s been designed to represent a specific aspect of the film’s cultural debate, there’s no possibility of feeling anything for Roberto or his relatives’ plight; all that’s elicited from this thesis-paper spectacle is exasperation at the absence of any—to quote Roberto’s one successful ad tagline— “spark of life.”

 Cast: José Mota, Salma Hayek, Manuel Tallafe, Blanca Portillo, Juan Luis Galiardo, Antonio Garrido, Fernando Tejero, Joaquin Climent, Juanjo Puigcorbe, Eduardo Casanova, Nerea Camacho, Carolina Bang, Santiago Segura, Nacho Vigalondo  Director: Álex de la Iglesia  Screenwriter: Randy Feldman  Distributor: IFC Films  Running Time: 98 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2012  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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