Gaudi Afternoon

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Gaudi Afternoon

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An acerbic American in Spain who ekes out a meager living translating South American novels, Judy Davis begins Gaudi Afternoon in a suspended state common to many cinematic protagonists. Broke, frustrated, and looking for excitement, she finds plenty of the latter in the form of mysterious client Marcia Gay Harden, who needs help in locating her estranged husband. A stereotypical ugly American, Harden turns out to be a pre-operative transsexual, and her "husband" turns out to be butch lesbian Lili Taylor, who has traveled to Spain with their precocious daughter and flaky New Age girlfriend Juliette Lewis in tow. Lewis and Taylor's charismatic male bisexual magician roommate only adds to the polysexual perversity, but in spite of the film's colorful setting and kinky take on sexuality, Afternoon only occasionally aspires to the sort of gender-bending screwball madness that made Pedro Almodóvar his name. Director Susan Seidelman is best known for directing the Madonna vehicle Desperately Seeking Susan, another fluffy comedy of blurred identities, and she gives Afternoon a suitably light touch. Davis plays a slight variation on the world-weary cynic she's mastered in films like Husbands And Wives, Naked Lunch, and Barton Fink, yet it doesn't really matter that she's hopelessly typecast. It's still exciting to see one of the finest actresses of her generation tear into a meaty lead role. Afternoon meanders when it should be building comic momentum, but adept direction, a vibrant setting, and a terrific cast help give shape and color to Seidelman's frothy, paper-thin concoctions. Gaudi Afternoon seems content to be seen, enjoyed, and forgotten almost instantly, but Davis lends a surprising amount of soul and heart to an otherwise merely pleasant diversion.

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