The hapless advance filming of a New Year’s special is complicated by a squashed extra, an assassination plot, blackmail, riots, raging libidos, ghastly ego trips and, of course, a few song-and-dance numbers in “My Big Night,” an enjoyably antic farce that’s built to spill over — and largely delivers on its party-hardy promise. Helmer Alex de la Iglesia’s last comedy, 2013’s “Witching & Bitching,” didn’t make much of a splash outside of Spain, but while this breathless ensembler may be too campy for some tastes, it is also a feat of elegant construction that could draw viewers who once flocked to early, transgressive Almodovar, provided they’re in a frivolous mood.
Disaster visits the TV shoot almost immediately when an extra at table 21 is struck in a crane accident, and it appears to be a fatal blow. No matter: Jose (Pepon Nieto) finally gets the call he’s been waiting for from the temp agency and, dressed to impress, buses to the studio to fill the empty seat. Little does he know that the set has become a kind of purgatory, with his fellow extras unsure of when (or if) they’ll be allowed to leave, thanks to the picketers rioting outside. Jose hits it off with bombshell seatmate Paloma (Blanca Suarez) — the two bond over their scars — who seems suspiciously eager to get to know the schlubby newcomer, and may also be the jinx responsible for his predecessor’s accident. In any case, the endless shoot has already worked an aphrodisiac effect on their tablemates.
Backstage, the vain, demanding star of yesteryear’s specials, Alphonso (Spanish superstar Raphael, in the kind of self-parodying performance that has probably lost some punch in translation) pines for the days when he performed with Tom Jones and seethes at his younger competition, bad boy Adanne (Mario Casas), who is due to sing his inanely suggestive hit “Fireman,” and whose inability to keep his pants zipped renders him the victim of a blackmail scheme. (Or schemes — this is kind of movie in which one stray vial of semen isn’t enough.)
Meanwhile, Alphonso’s embittered, possibly adopted son, Yuri (Carlos Areces), has hired Oscar (Jaime Ordonez), an obsessed fan with tattoos a la Max Cady, to assassinate Alphonso during the performance, but Oscar’s love for Alphonso’s music is perhaps too strong. (In a showstopping sequence, he gets a chance to take the stage and sing one of his idol’s biggest hits.) With the bickering cohosts (Hugo Silva and Carolina Bang) and the mobile control unit (headed by Carmen Machi) also vying for screen time, one could easily lose track of the subplot in which Jose fails to keep tabs on his flighty mom, who wears a giant crucifix ripped from her husband’s coffin.
The pervasive flippancy makes it easy to overlook the tightness of the film’s construction (the script was written by de la Iglesia and regular collaborator Jorge Guerricaechevarria). Editor Domingo Gonzalez maintains clarity and a rapid pace while cutting among the surfeit of storylines. The supersaturated palette, tacky outfits, and glitzy set — a character in itself — are essential to the show.
Film Review: 'My Big Night'
Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 11, 2015. Also in San Sebastian Film Festival. Running time: 98 MIN. (Original title: “Mi Gran Noche”)
(Spain) An Enrique Cerezo, PC, S.A production in coproduction with Telefonica Studio with the participation of AMC Networks International Iberia. (International sales: Film Factory Entertainment, Barcelona.) Produced by Enrique Cerezo.
Directed by Alex de la Iglesia. Screenplay, de la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarria. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Angel M. Amoros; editor, Domingo Gonzalez; original soundtrack, Joan Valent; choreographic director, Poty Castillo; production designers, Arturo Garcia “Biafra,” Jose Arrizabalaga “Arri”; art directors, Garcia, Arrizabalaga; set decorators, Garcia, Arrizabalaga; costume designer, Paola Torres; sound, Sergio Burmann.
Raphael, Mario Casas, Pepon Nieto, Blanca Suarez, Santiago Segura, Carlos Areces, Jaime Ordonez, Terele Pavez, Carolina Bang, Enrique Villen, Luis Callejo, Ana Polvorosa, Tomas Pozzi, Luis Fernandez, Antonio Velazquez, Carmen Ruiz, Marta Castellote, Marta Guerras, Carmen Machi, Hugo Silva.