Reading 1981's The Celluloid Closet—Vito Russo's seminal, scathing exploration of homophobia in cinema—it's easy to be struck by how far movies have come since its release, but also by how far they still have to go. An excellent case in point is La Mujer De Mi Hermano, an overheated melodrama that prominently features two of the primary gay archetypes examined in Russo's book—one essentially positive, the other negative and reactionary. Bruno Bichir embodies a primarily positive queer stereotype as the sassy, tart-tongued wisecracking sidekick/best friend of luscious female lead Bárbara Mori. The melodramatic plot turns on a "shocking" revelation of homosexuality, another throwback to the bad old days of ugly stereotypes and deeply closeted cinema, so it's best not to talk too specifically about the other gay archetype at play. Let's just say it involves a prominent boogeyman of pre-gay liberation cinema: the violently repressed, pedophiliac closet case whose self-loathing sexuality warps his most important relationships.
Mori exudes a ripe sensuality as a sexually frustrated housewife whose coldly chic house—a nouveau riche paradise of metal and glass—reflects the emptiness of her loveless marriage to workaholic Christian Meier. Meier is the kind of rigid control freak who has to perform a stringent cost-benefit analysis of a situation before even considering doing something spontaneous. On the other hand, Meier's earthy bohemian brother (Manolo Cardona) virtually sweats machismo; as Mori and Meier's palace becomes a tomb for their dead marriage, Mori and Cardona begin an illicit affair.
What begins as a glossily empty love triangle, fortified with sex scenes full of bronzed bodies writhing in passion, eventually morphs into a glossily empty psychosexual melodrama. To their credit, the filmmakers at least try to transcend the queasy sexual politics by investing old archetypes with some nuance and affection. But the film lacks the sophistication necessary to distill hard truths out of florid melodrama. For all its gender-bending, La Mujer De Mi Hermano's primary appeal is Mori's stunning beauty. Once upon a time, Americans snuck off to arthouses largely to sample the forbidden fruit of naked foreign boobs. Some things never change.