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20 Centimeters (DVD Review)

26 Nov, 2006 By: Billy Gil

20 centimeters

Street 12/5/06
TLA Releasing
$24.99 DVD
Not rated.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Mónica Cervera, Rossy de Palma, Lola Dueñas, Pablo Puyol.

In the proud tradition of director Pedro Almodóvar comes the surreal Spanish comedy 20 Centimeters.

The film follows Marieta, doubly wronged by being born into the wrong gender as Adolfo, and born well-endowed with the film's titular measurement.

Adding to Marieta's displeasure are poverty, which she staves off through prostitution; narcolepsy, which leaves her asleep at inopportune times to hallucinate vivid musical numbers; and no man to love her, save for her dwarf roommate Tomás.

By turning tricks and working the night shift cleaning the Atocha train station, Marieta scrapes by. But with the costs of hormone injections and Tomás' cello lessons, there's little left over to save toward her dream of having an operation to realize womanhood.

Cervera plays the part of Marieta genuinely, acting as a biological man striving to behave like a woman. Cervera's husky voice and sexual provocation belie her bright eyes and feminine frame. She's dynamite in the role, joining Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto and Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry as actors who overhaul their appearance and mannerisms to play transgendered characters without a hint of condescension.

20 Centimeters' characters long for something other than the hand they're dealt. Tomás hopes to learn the cello, even though Marieta meanly tells him his arms won't reach. Marieta's friend Berta wants to move to Brazil for a life of riches and men, neglecting her son in the process. And Marieta's love interest, a muscular, motorcycle-riding stock boy, doesn't quite have the machismo he projects.

The film's overly campy musical sequences, which take place while Marieta is passed out, are as frequent as they are grating. One of the more entertaining numbers features Marieta dressed as a graveyard vampire, and plays like Marilyn Manson covering “Thriller” in the film 28 Days Later. But the film's snappy dialogue and deft performances leave a more lasting impression.

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