First Run Features // 2003 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kristin Munson (Retired) // February 18th, 2008
Do cry for me Argentina. This film should have never left you.
If Lili's Apron were a closet, then the apron in the title would be the only thing hanging in it, along with a naked light bulb and some wire hangers. I've heard of bare bones DVD releases, but never realized the description could refer to the movie.
Ramon and Lili live in Argentina at a time when the unemployment rate is 50%. Unaware of how lucky they are to be able to afford a house, two kids, and a pool in this time of economic crisis, they get themselves fired. The couple does everything from street-vending to selling off furniture to keep afloat, but the debts are mounting and so is the stress. Just as she's offered a job, Lili has a mental breakdown and has to go away for a while, leaving Ramon to take the position, posing as Lili.
At first glance, Lili's Apron sounds like an interesting flick, promising cross-dressing comedy alongside social satire, but it's hazy on most, if not all, of the details. Details like character, pacing, and plot. The little things.
For the most part, the plot shuffles aimlessly along, and by the time Ramon finally throws on a wig and starts sweeping, it's more than halfway through. The director's philosophy seems to be to cut out all the scenes that are interesting or explanatory and let the viewers figure out what's happening for themselves. The problem is there aren't enough puzzle pieces left to put it all together. It's difficult to figure out how much time has elapsed from one point to the next or where the characters are in any given scene. Lili and the kids go to stay with Ramon's family, but then she's apparently back in the couple's house. How does Ramon get the live-in maid position when he looks so unsettling as a woman and doesn't even shave his legs? By the time the movie does muster itself to do anything, it's for a last minute lurch into Made-for-Lifetime territory, complete with crazy wives and kidnapping plots.
Casting the couple as folk heroes, the film ends with an upbeat song that doesn't jibe with the movie you just watched. Lili loses her maid job because she's caught wearing her employer's jewelry and then blows the family's savings on a Tupperware venture. Ramon threatens co-workers with knives, and when he's fired from his cooking post, he refuses to take a lower position, even though he's four months behind on the mortgage. By the time Ramon slaps his wife around and drugs her with a doggie sedative, it's hard to feel any sympathy for the couple or their plight, let alone cheer them on.
Paula Ituriza and Luis Ziembrowsky try valiantly to bring depth to Lili and Ramon, but there's not a lot they can do with a single dimension. We know the characters are in love because they're all over one another, and we know they're distressed because they pace and hold their heads. That's about the extent of character development. The rest of the actors don't even get that to work with: their characters are just there.
The disc's video and audio are merely average, but there's seldom any soundtrack to showcase, except for a warped copy of Classical Favorites that gets thrown on whenever Ramon's emotions spin out of control. The subtitles are uneven, with erratic capitalization and inconsistent spelling of characters' names. The only relevant extra is a DVD-Rom discussion guide that mostly details Argentinean history.
Occasionally there are glimpses of a good film trying to get out. There's a wonderfully shot scene where Ramon travels through the city looking for work and passes billboards and bus stop signs that are all pristine and white, either because nobody can afford to advertise, or it's not worth getting ads to people who can't afford what's on them.
The other redeeming feature is the transvestite prostitute who mistakes Ramon for a fellow working girl and proves to be the one person he can confide in. Even if she is the stereotypical hooker with a heart of gold, she's also the only supporting character that shows any character, stepping up to get Ramon out of jail and carrying on some of the movie's few conversations.
There's nothing funny about this comedy, and whatever satire the scriptwriter was aiming for gets lost in the same limbo as the plot and the dialogue. If anything, Lili's Apron is a telenovela without the camp. Those looking for a gender-bending social commentary with some actual comedy would be better entertained with Offside.
Guilty of being a total drag.
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Discussion Guide