Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown

Pedro Almodovar’s tamest, slickest feature (1988) is an entertaining melodramatic farce but a far cry from the kinky irreverence of his earlier work. Pepa (Carmen Maura) gets desperate when her lover and fellow actor, Ivan (Fernando Guillen), deserts her without warning, and her flat quickly fills up with others who are comparably frantic: a friend (Maria Barranco) who has unknowingly become involved with a Shiite terrorist, a former lover of Ivan’s whose son by him (Antonio Banderas) has come to rent Pepa’s apartment, and the police. The results are high-spirited, with nice ensemble work from Almodovar’s team of regulars, but the playlike structure (originally derived from Cocteau’s The Human Voice but drastically reworked) is disappointingly conventional. There are usually at least a dozen French, Italian, and Spanish pictures like this every year, which makes it strange that this one turned out to be such a hit. In Spanish with subtitles. R, 88 min. (JR)

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