When I was a kid, Cedar Point would start hyping its newest ride, usually but not always a roller coaster, just as winter gave over to spring. In June, we’d finally get to the park and wait in line for two hours to experience it. Some years, the ride didn’t live up to its promise; I felt I had been duped. I recently felt that same disappointment again leaving the theater after a sold out screening of Roberto Sneider’s edgy new romantic comedy You’re Killing Me Susana.
Self-absorbed lout Eligio (Gael García Bernal) is a minor soap opera actor who believes in monogamy—for his wife, Susana (Verónica Echegui), not him. He stays out drinking, cheats on her, and sometimes drags his thespian friends over to their apartment to party into the wee hours—after Susana’s gone to bed. The look on her face and the way she pushes him off of her when he stumbles into bed and nuzzles her to cuddle is sublimely bitchy—and funny.
Eligio is the only one who’s confused when Susana leaves him. He schleps from Mexico City to Iowa to track her down, enduring American customs agents and evading campus police. He finds her enrolled in a writing program for foreign students at an unnamed university (University of Iowa, perhaps?). She’s also running around with a silent, brooding, and well-endowed Polish poet (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson). Without a plan or a place to stay, Eligio moves into Susana’s dorm—ostensibly to work out their issues.
Adapted by Sneider and Luis Cámara from José Agustín’s novel, You’re Killing Me Susana depicts a dysfunctional relationship that both participants take a lax approach to maintaining. I don’t mind dislikable characters, but I had some difficulty connecting with these ones. They seem to recognize a problem, but it doesn’t come off as dire. Some of what happens between them is confusing, and as a result the message gets lost. Somewhere in here, I suspect, are statements about machismo, maturity, fidelity, how men and women view sex, and what they want out of life.
The previews suggested something riotously fun and sexy, and I really like Bernal. You’re Killing Me Susana exudes that distinct cuteness with a dark undertone you see a lot in Mexican films. Overall, though, this is just okay. It has some funny moments—most of them in the trailer—but the execution is shallow, simplistic, and forgettable. Too bad, because this could have been a really powerful and interesting film.
With Ashley Grace, Andrés Almeida, Jadyn Wong, Adam Hurtig, Barbara Garrick, Ilse Salas
Production: Cuévano Films, La Banda Films
Distribution: Hola Mexico Distribution
(Gene Siskel Film Center) C-