Lima 2014 Review: VIEJOS AMIGOS, A Light, Harmless Comedy About Growing Old
The debut film from director Fernando Villarán, Viejos Amigos is one of the most anticipated local films of the year. For some odd reason, its theatrical run has kicked off on the same week it plays at the Lima Film Festival, which just means that everyone now has a chance to see it. The question is, is it worth it? Despite some obvious problems, the answer is largely yes.
Balo (Ricardo Blume), Villarán (Enrique Victoria) and Domingo (Carlos Gassols) are lifelong friends in their 80s, attending the funeral of their fourth comrade, Quique. On a whim, and fueled by their animosity towards the departed's shrewish wife, they steal the urn containing the ashes and are thrust into a series of misadventures,
The plot's pretty slight, but the real pleasure of this movie comes from watching the three leads. They're legends in the local acting community, and are clearly bringing their own life experiences to bear on their characters. They're playing types - Blume's the straight man, Victoria is the cranky loudmouth, and Gassols is the recipient of all the "old age" gags (involving deafness and adult diapers) - but you can tell they're having a blast; the film is at its best when it lets them trade barbs and riff on each other rather than have them move the plot forward.
The humor is not of the laugh-till-your-sides-hurt variety, but rather more gentle, low-key and free of bad taste, save for a bit involving a cat's litterbox that thankfully doesn't go too far. With the three characters reminiscing about their youth and contemplating their old age, it becomes more of a dramedy than anything. In fact, the best scene is not comedic at all, with Blume telling a heartfelt story to a group of youngsters hanging on his every word.
As the trio journey through different locations - a soccer stadium, a bar they used to hang out at - the film also becomes a tribute of sorts to life in the port of Callao, as well as to its soccer team, Sport Boys, which has probably the most dedicated fanbase in the country. There's a story behind every location, and this lends the story some poignancy; it will probably resonate better with anyone who lives in the neighborhood or is a Boys supporter. Whether or not this will have the same effect on a foreign audience is another matter.
Viejos Amigos does have some missteps: there are some pacing issues and there's a third act "breakup" that would be more appropriate for a romantic comedy. It's unnecessary, and the characters seem to realize this, since it's resolved rather quickly. Still, it's hard to criticize a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve so transparently; Villarán's intentions are sincere, and that goes a long way towards smoothing out the rough edges.
It's not gut-bustingly hilarious, but it's an amiable and harmless way to spend 90 minutes, in the company of three of Peru's greatest living actors. Watching them have fun is a simple pleasure.
The film played at the Lima Film Festival on August 10, 12, and 14, the same day it was released widely in theaters. For more information, click here.
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