Shot on the cheap, this lo-fi Argentine comedy mixes clichés with refreshing candor. Ostensibly, it tells the story of a middle class thirty-something who is about to move in with his fiancée and who, upon the prompting of a friend, decides to attempt small-time fraud in order to furnish his apartment with expensive electronics. The ‘masterplan’ of the ironic title is for the protagonist to go on a credit card spending spree and then declare his vintage car stolen along with his wallet. Thus, his purchases will be regarded as the work of a felon and he will get his money back. Unfortunately, his gamble fails –though he’s not caught– and the ensuing cover-up nudges him towards the outer rims of a nervous breakdown.
The ‘masterplan’ of the ironic title is for the protagonist to go on a credit card spending spree and then declare his vintage car stolen along with his wallet.
But this is not a movie concerned with process. That is, most stories about frauds, scams, robberies, and other complicated illegal pursuits usually obsess over the details. Part of their pleasure is in allowing us to observe the complicated maneuvers of their anti-heroes. Think of the heist veterans in Rififi and Ocean’s 11, the brilliant Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, the elaborate film-length cons in Nine Queens and Matchstick Men. Here, on the other hand, the specifics of the titular crime are either avoided through jump-cuts or underplayed for laughs. Far more important are the various, humorous emotional turmoils undergone by the protagonist, whose amateur brush with delinquency, along with the hard work involved in concealing his sins, estranges him from his fiancée, distances him from his hipster buddies, and becomes a source of incessant and hilarious tension when a bank representative, tasked with investigating the supposed credit card theft, pummels him with questions.
This last event, in a different film, would have allowed the main character to display deftness and quick thinking, even in the face of danger. Yet the chubby everyman of Masterplan can only respond with ridiculous and improbable excuses, and part of the comedy is that his improvised hokum is actually effective. The bank representative is thoroughly incompetent, and a total movie fantasy. No credit card company –at least that I know of– would send an investigator to an account holder’s apartment in order to gather data about a robbery. But it happens here, and that’s fine. It’s a great scene. (If I’m wrong about credit card companies, please correct me).
No, the real cinematic kin of Masterplan is not Nine Queens and its criminal ilk, but something like The Accidental Tourist, that seldom-mentioned example of 80s American quirk. Brother-directors Pablo and Diego Levy give us a pageant of Argentine eccentrics and numbskulls: the protagonist’s fiancée, aggressively banal and colorless; his parents, awkward and out-of-fashion; the bank representative, overbearing and soaked in armpit sweat; and an impressively lifelike hobo, who camps in the protagonist’s hidden-away faux-stolen car. We might say none of these characters are actually eccentric, as I just implied, so much as violently ordinary. Their kookiness, then, would be that of regular people. At the same time, they are all stereotypes, though imbued with gestural detail that saves them from the flatness of convention.
Brother-directors Pablo and Diego Levy give us a pageant of Argentine eccentrics and numbskulls: the protagonist’s fiancée, aggressively banal and colorless…
These performances register on at least two levels. We might write the equation they embody thusly: ‘stereotype plus something else’, where the latter half of the sum is impossible to define. I suspect it signals the amateurishness of the film. That is, shot by young filmmakers (with only a documentary under their belt), working with little known or non-actors, the stereotypes are thus imperfect, not quite chiseled to fit expectations, and something unprofessional –in the facial expressions, in the cadence and rhythm of line deliveries– something exceeds the character types, makes them live, which is why Masterplan succeeds.
[notification type=”star”]70/100 ~ GOOD. In the facial expressions, in the cadence and rhythm of line deliveries– something exceeds the character types, makes them live, which is why Masterplan succeeds.[/notification]