Seeing any film at the Chauvel cinema, Paddington in Sydney is like stepping into an intimate experience. The service is friendly and personalised, and the cinema itself exudes a kind of chilled-out classy atmos; before your chosen film starts, you can order a beer or glass of wine to enjoy out on the balcony, or in one of the squashy armchairs inside. For the closing night of the 2013 Mexican Film Festival, the Chauvel had the reception area decked out with decorative activities, complete with Day-of-the-Dead-style face painting, DJ Oscar Cadena with a dance floor and a pop-up cantina serving margaritas and Sol beer.
The film on the bill was Nosotros Los Nobles (We Are The Nobles), directed by Gary Alazraki – his first feature-length film, and a huge success at that (it is the #1 ranking film in the Mexican box office). It’s full of the exaggerated gestures suggested by the trailer, and concerns three extremely rich, ‘noble’ and spoilt adult siblings and their father’s deceptive plan to teach them a few lessons about life – namely, working for a living and mingling with ordinary, non-millionaire folk. It has a lot of almost slapstick comedy, but most of the laughs come from the well-written and -acted dialogue and the plot is predictably fun. It is enjoyably light-hearted with just a few well-placed drops of sentimentality that help bring a sense of closure and satisfaction that not many standard Hollywood comedies can afford.
The over-the-top grandeur and expectations of the ultra-moneyed siblings seems unreal and rather hyperbolic to those unfamiliar with the class differences in Mexico, but this “riches-to-rags” story is about more than a mere chuckle at artificiality. There is a substantial income gap between the wealthy and the middle class in the Mexico, with the Latin American country being the home of one of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim – second only to Bill Gates – and yet, the country’s middle-class workers earn only 33.6 percent of national income.
Alazraki himself came from a wealthy family; his father was a self-made advertising executive and Alazraki has admitted in interviews that he was more than a little spoilt. However, it seems that he has captured a certain mood of discontent with his film, satirising the extremities of classism to the extent where it appears to have struck a chord, or hit the funny bone, of the Latin American movie-going public.
Through farce, Alazraki has achieved viewer satisfaction from the Mexicans who are not driving around in Porsches and abusing waiters for the melted goat’s cheese on their plates: that is, those who constitute the great majority of the population and exemplify the reason that Mexicans were announced as the country that works the longest hours in the world just two years ago by the OECD. The people see the absurdity, and it is a relief to laugh at it. It is hilarious to see the mansion-nested daughter, Barbie, throw a tantrum after being denied thousands of dollars for a honeymoon, then being forcibly relocated to her grandfather’s dilapidated house where she feels the need to pour sanitiser all over herself. Carlos, the youngest, is granted a job at a bank via his connections, but of course screws it up, and is made to do sexual favours from his boss in order to keep it (a satirical jab at the sexual harassment workers often have to deal with in the workplace). The elder son Javi’s biggest problem prior to taking on a bus-driving gig is the lack of respect his “business ideas” – the likes of “THE WORLD’S BIGGEST RUM AND COKE” – get him in the business world. He asks a fellow bus driver what his biggest problem at the moment is, and is met with the reply:
“Well, there is this chick from my town who says that her child is mine and she wants me to send her money. But she can’t prove it. So, until I send her money, she will send her cousins with sticks and machetes…”
Indulgence comes in many more forms than shiny, upscale, pretty things; here, it comes in a satirical dart that hits the rich and wealthy in their unsympathetic hearts. In spite of the heady issues it tackles, Nosotros Los Nobles is a truly enjoyable piece full of warmth, misguided passion and laughter and I heartily recommend it to all!
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
We Are The Nobles screened in Australia at the Hola Mexico Film Festival, where it was reviewed.