Review: As Luck Would Have It (2011)

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Cast: José Mota, Salma Hayek, Blanca Portillo
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Country: Spain | France | USA
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: As Luck Would Have It opened in limited release on Friday, February 1st

Of the vast plethora of recent films which deign to deal with the fallout of the financial crisis, few have had the confidence to broach the subject with comedy, even horror—for once—a more widely-used tool in the exploration of these key contemporary issues. Álex de la Iglesia opts to broaden the field with As Luck would Have It, a quasi-absurdist production that ably juggles the responsibilities of portraying with sincerity and sensitivity the difficult lives of the financially troubled with the requirement of entertaining its audience through the increasing oddity of this politically-charged parable.

He embodies with richly comic pathos the fears of our modern world, his inability to support his family and unwillingness to confess this to them painting him a character only passively participatory in his own life.

luck4Playing a hero who would not look out of place at the centre of a Woody Allen film, José Mota is Roberto, a one-hit-wonder advertising executive whose great success with Coca Cola at the age of seventeen has long since evaporated. He embodies with richly comic pathos the fears of our modern world, his inability to support his family and unwillingness to confess this to them painting him a character only passively participatory in his own life. In pursuit of memories of a more optimistic time in life, he visits the former site of his honeymoon hotel, now an excavated site of historical interest. What follows thereafter is a tonally deft and thematically daring multilayered metaphor as Roberto finds himself accidentally impaled—yet miraculously alive—on an iron rod, keen to exploit his situation for all the marketing opportunities he can.

Albeit a film defined by the oddity of its story, perhaps the most remarkably strange aspect of As Luck Would Have It is the role of Randy Feldman as screenwriter, a man whose fame—or infamy, more accurately—comes from penning panned action fodder the like of Tango & Cash and Metro, a short-lived career that came to an understandable halt some sixteen years ago. His return could hardly be more different to those films; here is a deft story of astonishing sharpness, adeptly equipped to tickle the funny bone as it constructs a finely nuanced allegory so layered as to welcome—demand, almost—repeat viewings. The breadth of its thematic scope is almost as impressive as is the depth, each of the many core ideas it touches upon explored with such success as to ably offer support to a feature film of their own.

…here is a deft story of astonishing sharpness, adeptly equipped to tickle the funny bone as it constructs a finely nuanced allegory so layered as to welcome—demand, almost—repeat viewings.

luck3Feldman’s finger most prominently and obviously points at the sensationalist tendencies of the modern media circus, his confinement of the action to the centre

of this ancient theatre a telling condemnation of the virulent vicariousness sold in contemporary news reporting. At the same time, and on levels more subtly astute, he tackles the self-preserving tendencies of government, the valuation of history above human life, the ruthlessness and unscrupulousness of corporate culture, and the crude cynicism of reality television. He has crafted of a scenario that seems at surface only silly a breathtakingly comprehensive consideration of the modern world, managing in the course of a mere ninety-five minutes to tie together dozens of disparate strands, forging a narrative both funny and fearsome, as intent on entertaining us as it is on—right to its unexpected, self-reflexive end—refusing to allow us the passivity that defines its protagonist.

Functioning on so many levels, both tonally and thematically, as to be almost incomprehensibly intelligent, As Luck Would Have It is an extraordinary achievement in storytelling, blending ecstatic comedy and compelling drama with sharp social commentary and accusatorily aggressive indictments of the modern world’s failings. Its genius may be Feldman’s, but the confident guidance of de la Iglesia in translating this complexity from script to screen should not be overlooked, nor indeed should the profound humanity—even in those moments of the utmost ludicrousness—of Mota. They have together given to us one of the great successes of post-crash cinema, as much a product of our time as a protestor against.

[notification type=”star”]87/100 ~ GREAT. Functioning on so many levels, both tonally and thematically, as to be almost incomprehensibly intelligent, As Luck Would Have It is an extraordinary achievement in storytelling, blending ecstatic comedy and compelling drama with sharp social commentary and accusatorily aggressive indictments of the modern world’s failings.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.