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February 20, 2008

Ugly Me


Claudio Dabed - 2006
Arcangelo Entertainment 35mm Film

I liked that a film from generally ignored Chile was getting a theatrical release in the United States. The only time I had seen a true Chilean produced film was El Chacal de Nahueltoro, over thirty-five years ago, for a class on Third World Cinema. That film is a work worthy of revival, and based on a true story, presents a solid argument against the death penalty. Ugly Me, a lousy title for a somewhat untranslatable word, has less lofty goals. If the goal is to satirize the culture of machismo, and how women are perceived, the film fails in all sorts of ways. On the positive side, Ugly Me provides an introduction of Barbara Mori to a potentially wider audience.

Starting off in the ultra-modern Santiago, Mori's character, Amanda, is introduced by filmmaker Dabed as the sum of her parts with shots of her legs, breasts and rear in a tight fitting blouse and short skirt. The accidental cell phone transmission informs her that her boy friend is having an affair with her best friend. Amanda's response is to show up with a shot gun, blowing off the front door lock and frightening the lovers. When asked by a prison psychiatrist how she feels about her criminal act, she expresses a sense of satisfaction. Amanda soon returns to her job at an architectural firm where she finds that she's taking the fall for business decisions she opposed, that cost the firm. Amanda decides to start in a new life in Valparaiso, disguising herself to make herself look unattractive with extra padding and false teeth, vowing never to fall in love again.

ugly me 2.jpg

Amanda finds herself working for a small architectural firm where she wows the boss with her innovative solutions. Her co-workers are the office nerd, the hottie, and the stud. And here is where the film falls apart. The actor who plays ladies' man Marcelo, Marcelo Mazzarello, hardly looks the part. The film never bothers to clarify if Marcelo is totally pretending about his way with women, and gives little reason why either Amanda or any other woman would want to be with him. Even worse, while the film gives lip service to the idea of looking beyond the physical appearance of people, it ends up as an endorsement for traditional relationships with the guy marrying the smarter, more attractive woman.

I wouldn't be surprised if an English language remake was already in the works. Consider that Nicole Kidman gets an Academy Award for a fake nose. Barbara Mori's transformation isn't quite going into Eddie Murphy territory, but by comparison, it's very close. With her extra padding, bad teeth, wig, and dowdy clothing, Mori's character isn't really ugly. I'm not sure if average is the right word either. Still, the message is lost that beauty is not restricted to conventionally attractive women. Ultimately, Ugly Me has little to say, and doesn't seem to have even the courage of it's feeble convictions.

Posted by peter at February 20, 2008 07:37 PM


Oh, this one is begging for a remake. Yup. I see Jessica Alba, post-bebe ...

Posted by: Campaspe at February 21, 2008 09:48 PM


Posted by: Edith K at December 5, 2009 12:35 AM