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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
| Monday, 03.11.2024, 10:57 PM |   (76 views)

Navigating the U.S. Immigration system is akin to playing Chutes and Ladders, the Deathmatch version.  The rules can hinge on sponsorship by a U.S. citizen. If you have enough cash on hand while waiting for said sponsor, you’ll survive and, once sponsored, climb the Ladder to Citizenship.  If you’re cash-poor, you count your pennies, take whatever job is offered to you and sublet your bedroom while searching for sponsorship.  However, if you find yourself broke and sponsor-less, you slide down the deportation Chute.

Julio Torres wrote, directed and stars in Problemista, his unconventionally amusing semi-autobiographical filmmaking debut about this very broken system.   As mild-mannered Alejandro, Torres says adios to his supportive mother and leaves his native El Salvador for NYC.  His dream is to become a toymaker at Hasbro.  We see Alejandro making one video resume after another in submission to the toy giant, with zero success.  He even submits toy ideas, all which elicit chuckles from the audience.  No one is buying what he’s selling.

He’s running out of time and money.  In 30 days, the sands of time in his hourglass will collect at the bottom and he will be forced to leave the U.S.  To change his fate, he takes a job in a pricey cryogenic company.  His main responsibility is to make sure the tank holding a particular frozen body NEVER gets unplugged. And, naturally, he can’t even manage that and he’s fired from his job.

As he’s getting ready to exit the company, he’s spied in the waiting room by a very eccentric woman who happens to be married to the man in the tank.  The woman is Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), whose personality is the essence of harridan.  Her late husband, Bobby (RZA) was an artist, whose work primarily involved, well, the depiction of an egg in various colors and locations.  Bobby has passed away from a disease which is currently incurable and has had his body frozen in time.  He's hoping that 300 years in the future, fate would smile upon him.  Time ran out for Bobby and he made his choice; time is running out for Alejandro, and he makes his as well. 

Bobby was the love of Elizabeth’s life, perhaps the only person able to tolerate her.  Elizabeth thought his work brilliant, wants him to be remembered and celebrated.  She is searching for someone who can help curate his pieces, some of which have been sold to collectors.  The curator must also be able to stand being in the same room as her, forming the crux of the film. 

Swinton’s Elizabeth is way over the top, with her wild over-dyed flourescent red-pink hair and constant toxicity.  While Alejandro barely comes up for air, is almost a non-entity in her presence. Yet somehow the two of them meet in the middle.  You want to pity Alejandro, but he’s caught in the immigration trap, hoping Elizabeth will sponsor his Visa.  She is his only way out, so he makes lemons out of some really bitter lemonade, even, at times, defending her.  He does understand her single-minded devotion to immortalizing her love, which is, in a way, similar to his devotion to creating toys.

Her insistence on Alejandro using outdated, badly designed computer software to archive her late husband’s work typifies Elizabeth’s need to control everyone and everything that crosses her path. 

In the meantime, there is some underhandedness going on over at Hasbro HQ.  Once he gets wind of it, Alejandro may finally be able to take hold of his heart’s desire. 

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor / Movie Reviewer for In and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for NBC and CBS News affiliates.  She also edits national promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the #1 nationally syndicated news & information program.  For 30+ years she has covered the Florida Film Festival & the World Peace Film Festival, and has additional award-winning experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events with MTV Networks 

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