The wacky romantic comedy-drama is a staple of contemporary Spanish cinema, the legacy of Pedro Almodovar passed down, it seems, to innumerable lesser lights. “My Mother Likes Women,” the work of collaborative writer-directors Ines Paris and Daniela Fejerman, is a perfect example. The tale of a recently-divorced concert pianist whose three grown daughters try to sabotage her surprising new relationship with a young Czech immigrant, who just happens to be a female too, mixes dramatic and farcical elements in what’s now a very familiar fashion. Unfortunately, it comes across like a fourth-generation duplicate of an original–curiously pale and tired although straining for vivacity and color.
Actually the center of the film isn’t so much Sofia (Rosa Maria Sarda), the older woman who’s developed a loving bond with Eliska (Eliska Sirova), also a musician, but her middle daughter Elvira (Leonor Watling), a high-strung would-be writer working for a small publishing house. Elvira obviously has serious relationship problems–something that’s revealed in inordinately cute sessions with her psychologist and her almost suicidal attitude toward a handsome client (Chisco Amado) who shows an interest in her. She’s also the person chosen by her sisters–Jimena (Maria Pujalte), who’s stuck in an unhappy marriage, and Sol (Silvia Abascal), a rock singer so self-absorbed that she thinks there’s nothing wrong with performing a song about her mother’s new lifestyle–to seduce Eliska and break up her life with Sofia. The plan works entirely too well, and by the end the sisters regret what they’re done–all in time for a happily liberating outcome, of course.
“My Mother Likes Women” is nicely appointed, and it has some pleasant moments. Sarda gives a restrained, economical performance as Sofia, and Xabier Elorriaga is equally persuasive as her gentle, concerned ex-husband. Abascal has a serene grace as Eliska, and Amado is charming as the preternaturally patient Miguel. Unhappily the news is equally negative on the other side. The three sisters are played in overly broad, hectoring strokes, with Watling especially annoying in her excessively histrionic turn but Pujalte and Abascal not far behind. (To be fair, it’s difficult to image that any actresses could have done much better with such intrinsically unpleasant characters.) Aitor Mazo, as Elvira’s randy psychologist, and Alex Angulo, as her sleazy boss, also go way overboard.
So despite the occasional pleasures it affords, “My Mother Likes Women” seems a pallid Almodovar imitation, its strong undercurrent of mean-spiritedness never overcome by its ultimate message of acceptance and reconciliation.