If you’re a film fan and enjoy superhero movies, animated films, multiple sequels, and dramatic suspense films, then you have many options at the theater these days. Sadly, the same can’t be said for fans of the romantic comedy. Our options are fewer and farther between. This has prompted me to think outside of the box in my entertainment choices. It has also led me to some fairly enjoyable films that I might have otherwise missed. A La Mala is one of these.
A la Mala Synopsis
Maria Laura, aka Mala, is an aspiring actress whose outspoken views make it difficult for her to win roles. Fortunately, her roommate Kika is understanding as to why she is behind on her rent. Kika is also convinced her boyfriend is cheating on her. She coerces Mala into flirting with him to determine if he will be faithful. Though reluctant, Mala is also successful and eventually, word gets around about her unusual talent. Before she knows it, she is earning good money testing the loyalty of other women’s boyfriends.
However, when she finally lands a major role in a television series, she’s ready to leave her odd career behind. But the producer only agrees to guarantee the part if Mala will seduce her ex as a means of revenge. There’s just one problem. Mala has already had an unfortunate encounter with wealthy businessmen Santiago and they can’t stand each other. Still, Mala’s big break depends on making Santiago fall in love with her so that she can break his heart. Further complications arise when she develops conflicted feelings towards him and her unpleasant task. Will Mala be convincing enough to snag the heart of this wealthy bachelor? Even more importantly, will she be able to protect her own heart while doing so?
If A La Mala is an example of the type of romantic comedies being produced by Mexican cinema, I am impressed. Though it’s imperfect and at times clichéd, I also found it to be entertaining.
Mala’s unintentional career as a “relationship spy” gives her the surprising opportunity to put her acting skills to use. As a woman, I found the idea of a relationship spy both intriguing and slightly repulsive. Though Mala’s roommates insist that men are basically pigs, she doesn’t fully agree. I did find the continued male bashing a bit much sometimes. But I also cheered Mala when she confronted chauvinistic behavior during her auditions. Though it seems to be a proven fact that sex sells, I, along with Mala, wonder if there is a better way.
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Mala’s first encounter with Santiago makes for a great meet-cute. It follows the hate to love trope that many romantic comedies make use of. For the most part, Mala is a fairly balanced character, but she is also overly passionate at times. I took exception to some of her actions, including tire slashing and lying. But the film does make some use of her less appealing moments as a running joke between Mala and Santiago. This serves somewhat to redeem her.
Perhaps my favorite part of A La Mala is the slow reveal of Santiago. When Mala first meets him, she pegs him as just another insincere playboy. But as she’s forced to spend time with him, she realizes first impressions can be wrong. Mauricio Ochmann plays Santiago with surprising depth and nuance. His portrait of a complex man is beautifully subtle and shows real skill. I will definitely be looking for more of his movies.
If you love romantic comedies like I do, you may notice some similarities between this and other films. Pablo, one of Mala’s roommates reminded me very much of the Rhys Ifans character Spike in Notting Hill. There’s also a scene with them all in a car racing to catch Santiago, that was very reminiscent of Notting Hill. If it isn’t an homage to that beloved film, then it should be.
I also appreciated the bond Mala shares with both Kika and Pablo. These are friends who aren’t afraid to speak the truth and confront each other. And though it isn’t as obvious, Santiago’s assistant serves the same purpose for him.
Also, as someone who appreciates a good play on words, I love how Mala’s name is used as a cheeky reference to her un-chosen job. Translated literally the film’s title means “by foul means”. Though I think some of the impact is lost in translation, it’s still jokingly referenced more than once.
Overall, A La Mala doesn’t really offer anything new in the world of romantic comedies. However, it really doesn’t have to as it serves its purpose of entertainment and escapism. It’s also a great introduction to what foreign films have to offer if you are willing to explore outside the world of Hollywood. I, for one, am glad that I did.
Content Note: A la Mala is rated PG-13 for sexuality and nudity, though no body parts are actually displayed.
Where to Watch: Rent from Amazon, GooglePlay, and YouTube.
Photo Credit: Pantelion Films
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
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