Designer Cheap

Washington City Paper | May 4, 2006
La Mujer de Mi Hermano doesn’t really care about anything besides chic modernity and good looks. Sure, first-time screenwriter Jaime Bayly bandies about topics such as incest, adultery, and lifestyle choices in this adaptation of his own novel. But why burden your three main characters with examinations of such ugly matters when everything else in the movie is so pretty?

Actually, some viewers may find its beauty and simplicity satisfying enough. But just in case, Ricardo de Montreuil doesn’t take any chances that you might miss what subtext there is in his directorial debut: Zoe (Bárbara Mori), a makeup-free stunner, is married to Ignacio (Christian Meier), a wealthy but unaffectionate businessman who will have sex with her only on Saturdays. They live in a gorgeous but chilly Mexico City home of glass and granite (their relationship is cold!), he tends to wear two pairs of socks at once (his feet are cold!), and one evening, after Zoe talks him into taking a swim with her, he immediately jumps out of the water because he’s freezing (see how damn cold he is?).

It’s no surprise when Zoe gets closer to her brother-in-law, Gonzalo (Manolo Cardona), a committed bachelor and artist who refuses to live a 9-to-5 life (note his crazy, carefree hair, and the Ralph Lauren boxers peeking out of his jeans). Ignacio resents his brother because he helps support him, but there’s more than money that’s come between the siblings—and more than Zoe, too, though de Montreuil does seem to be happiest when focused on his female lead.

La Mujer is told from Zoe’s point of view, and she’s portrayed as a woman who just wants to be loved. She’s nearly always innocently gleaming in white pajamas, sheets, and sunshine—not like that dirty Diane Lane character in Unfaithful. You don’t blame her for having an affair, of course—though you might puzzle over exactly what she’s doing when she invites Gonzalo over to dinner while Ignacio’s out of town. In a black dress that shows off not only her curves but also just how chilly that house can be, she turns into a total cocktease, telling Gonzalo that they mustn’t give in to their attraction, then invites him to spend the night platonically in her bed. Of course, resistance is futile, and the cave-in is set to Angelo Milli’s awful, crescendoing strings.

Despite the sexy, um, ups and downs that the evening sets in motion, it’s not long before La Mujer’s 89 minutes start to feel like the longest soap opera ever. You can predict nearly every turn, and each one is underscored with perfunctory “passion” from the principals. Cinematographer Andrés Sánchez, meanwhile, ensures that the actors aren’t the only sources of loveliness, flooding the film with light that’s as dazzling as the characters’ designer clothes. That’s not really enough to make La Mujer de Mi Hermano worth watching, but in a world this superficial, at least it’s something.

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