Cartoon Mothers

Cartoon Mothers

Overwrought gay grooms fleeing matriarchal madness

Unax Ugalde as Miguel, perhaps the most improbable character of all, and Carmen Maura as his mother Magda in “Queens” directed by Manuel Gomez Pereira.

The overstuffed Spanish ensemble comedy “Queens,” about five meddlesome mothers attending a group wedding of gay men, should have been renamed “Divas,” as everyone in this energetic but messy comedy is over-emotive and self-important.

The film’s first reel introduces all of the characters and explains their relationships with one another. Although it takes a few scenes to sort everyone out, the characters are all as vivid as they are vapid. Nuria (Verónica Forqué) is the breathy, oversexed mother of aptly named Narciso (Paco León), who is marrying Hugo (Gustavo Salmerón). Hugo’s mother, Helena (Marcedes Sampietro), is a judge who does not love the fact that her son is gay. In fact, she plans a vacation during the ceremony so as not to have to witness the “spectacle” of 20 gay couples getting married.

Elsewhere, Reyes (Marisa Paredes), a wealthy actress, is distraught over the fact that her son Rafa (Raúl Jiménez) is marrying Jonás (Hugo Silva), the son of her gardener, Jacinto (Luís Homar). Óscar (Daniel Hendler) is marrying Miguel (Unax Ugalde), the son of Magda (Carmen Maura), an hotelier who caters to the pink peso. Óscar’s mother Ofelia (Betiana Blum) arrives in Madrid from Argentina, with her dog, which is not allowed in the hotel.

While the multiple storylines and characters are interconnected, “Queens” actually makes things slightly more difficult by employing a fractured narrative structure that shifts back and forth in time to tell and retell certain storylines from multiple perspectives. Director and co-writer Manuel Gómez Pereira seems to have worked hard to make a story about five women and six men as complicated as possible. What he has not done is made the comedy particularly funny.

One problem is that the film relies on generic mother-in-law stereotypes, the worst of which is Ofelia, the well-meaning mom who causes all kinds of problems for her son, and especially for his lover. Once Ofelia is warned about Miguel’s expensive carpet, it is only moments before her dog pees on it. When Ofelia in turn lays a guilt trip on the boys, she causes a rift to develop between them. Miguel gets so infuriated he allows for the disappearance of Ofelia’s dog, and the antagonism does not subside as the groups seek out the lost and very much loved pet.

The film’s other storylines are not much better. When Hugo’s father questions him about his homosexuality, the gay groom gets inappropriately passionate with Nuria, his future mother-in-law. Likewise, Rafa and Jonás may be comfortable in their relationship, but the effect it has on their parents—who in turn become lovers—threatens to destroy everyone’s happiness.

The filmmakers neglect the opportunity to celebrate the love between mothers and their gay sons, or to examine what marriage and family mean to these people, perhaps because the story has most of the characters meeting each other for the first time. The situations that arise between Hugo and Nuria and Miguel and Ofelia are contrived, unbelievable; it’s hard to invest any emotion in what happens to the couples. The relationship that develops between Jacinto and Reyes, who supposedly have known each other for ages, even if as lady of the manse and gardener seems superficial at best. It is a great moment when Reyes makes a grand, slow motion entrance to the song “Fever,” but such pleasures in “Queens” are fleeting.

The ladies are equally selfish and clueless when it comes to themselves and their sons. Their outrageous behavior is more stupid than shocking, and none of it is funny. When one son reveals a similarity he shares with his mother, the irony fails to amuse; any redemption the characters earn by the film’s end seems forced and foolish. Apparently, the theme of “Queens” is for everyone to get over themselves and embrace the ones they love—whoever they are and however they are related—but is not delivered in particularly palatable fashion.

The film is populated by some magnificent Spanish actresses—Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, and Verónica Forqué in particular—but they all seem to be slumming here. The boys are all adorable, but they are given little to do—except in the case of Unax Ugalde, who is saddled with the lamest storyline. It is a shame to see such talent and beauty wasted, but that is the one thing “Queens” does well.