I don’t get many opportunities to see Mexican films, which is strange considering the huge Mexican population in Chicago. I tend to like the ones I see, though—a lot. Generally speaking, the storytelling in Mexican films often has a distinct breeziness to it, and the humor a wry and dark undertone with some weight. It’s a different experience than, say, a Pedro Almodóvar film.
The Noble Family is no exception. It’s a cute riches-to-rags story about appreciating the value of money and all that goes with it. Germán Noble (Gonzalo Vega) is a wealthy businessman who built a financial empire. His wife died years ago—“May God keep her close to Him”—leaving Germán to raise his three children on his own with the help of a housekeeper (Mary Paz Mata). He’s taken aback when he notices how they live their lives: his dumb elder son, Javi (Luis Gerardo Méndez), blows money on lame ideas for businesses and on partying; his spoiled daughter, Bárbara (Karla Souza), demands everyone jump when she says so, including her father when she reveals her intention to marry a shady gold digger (Carlos Gascón); and his younger son, hipster Charlie (Juan Pablo Gil), just got expelled from university after he was caught having sex with a teacher in her office. None of them are good at anything—or particularly gracious.
Germán suffers a minor heart attack when he sees how much money his kids are spending. He devises a plan to teach them a lesson—he orchestrates a takedown of his empire, which he claims is due to union troubles and an embezzling business partner (Mario Haddad). The Nobles flee to a ghetto in Mexico City to hide out in a run-down house that Germán’s father owned. For the first time, the kids have to support themselves—which means they have to get jobs. Unbeknownst to him, a lesson awaits Germán as well.
Directed by Gary Alazraki, The Noble Family is a fun satire of rich kids. It’s not mean-spirited, but it makes some serious points about social class, racism, and working hard. The characters are great—all three kids are convincing as fish out of water, especially snippy Bárbara and her constant griping, disdainfully comparing her surroundings to Venezuela, Cuba, even Thailand. Lucho (Ianis Guerrero) is a relatable catalyst, getting the kids jobs and showing them how to take care of business. A subtle subplot involving a cat plays into the moral of the story—no doubt because one of the film’s backers is Whiskas cat food. Weird.
The second highest grossing film in Mexican history (http://variety.com/2016/film/global/mexico-local-movies-hits-nosotros-los-nobles-eugenio-derbez-1201846931/), The Noble Family is a well-done straightforward comedy. It’s a bit predictable, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun.
(Chicago Cultural Center) B
Chicago International Film Festival