If Spain is indeed the new France, and anybody’s looking for cultural products to boycott à la Chardonnay, we might start with the homophobic yuppie sex comedy, The Other Side of the Bed. As part of the four-film Sundance Film Series touring block, this Iberian top-grosser is being marketed as a frothy sex-positive screwball musical, but since all the mix-ups contrived to spice up its witless central foursome’s fornication rondelet depend exclusively on exhumed notions of homosexuality and gender-rolling, it plays more like a horror flick—say, 28 Decades Earlier.
Veteran director Emilio Martínez-Lázaro brings to Bed an understanding of women comparable to Almodóvar’s (read: an incredibly skewed version), and is incapable of anything approaching the latter’s redeeming buoyancy and generous absurdism. His broad-brush stereotyping is apparent well within the demand-a-refund time frame: The title sequence unfurls the first musical number, a pop ballad suggesting “The Boy Is Mine” meets a White Diamonds perfume campaign, performed by our two libido-bot gamines, Natalia Verbeke and Sex and Lucía’s Paz Vega, who sigh longingly for the perfect honeymoon, the apparent extent of female ambition. Our gals roll in satin, cooing lyrics like “You wear the pants/I don’t wear a nightgown.”
The pants-panties scenario involves two friendly couples who, unwittingly, simultaneously swap partners—girl-boy, girl-boy, natch. The men commiserate and vow revenge on the suspected interlopers, all the while trying to deflect blame from themselves. Javier (Ernesto Alterio) tells Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) that his girl Paula (Verbeke) is probably with a now gay ex-boyfriend (“They say that everyone is bisexual”), while Pedro tells Javier that his Sonia (Vega) is probably sleeping with her lesbian friend (again, “They say. . . “). This burly pub banter—just guys, the girls get no ladies-only chat time—is cut with blithe but banal sex scenes, and much worse song-and-dance interludes that pack more cheese than pre-blackout Artisanal.
Taking his cue from Everyone Says I Love You (and we all know how well that worked out), Martínez-Lázaro has the cast talk-sing and walk-dance; Javier even gets to rap like a “new” MC Solaar, in a spazzy locker-room “gotta be free” sequence that includes a girl chorus line to nip any bathhouse vibe in the bud. Another guy-tune sports the chorus “Girls are warriors,” while the women sing of indecision and feral desire.
The pivotal plot twist that sends the girls cycling back to their rightful owners involves outsize Javier’s jealous rage at Sonia’s possible lesbian dalliance. We learn lots about how to spot a dyke (“plaid shirts and glasses”), lesbian sex (“They don’t really do anything”), and watch as he angrily tries to tempt Sonia with a Playboy. Then he traumatizes Sonia’s gay friend to frighten her away from Sonia. Even if that mean-spiritedness could find an audience among bigots anywhere, the Europop dreck should minimize its reach here. If Martínez-Lázaro, as he reiterated at the Miami Film Festival earlier this year, wants to expand the U.S. Spanish-language film market, one hopes he’ll aim higher than this.