The Weasel’s Tale: Yesterday’s Gal, by David Bax
One of cinema’s former grand dames, now holed up in a decrepit mansion with her former collaborators, surrounded by moth-eaten reminders of her time in the limelight… If the set-up to Juan José Campanello’s The Weasel’s Tale sounds like Sunset Boulevard, that’s both intentional and a huge selling point. People who love movies–people like you and me–often love movies about the version of old Hollywood that exists in our heads where it can be whatever we want to imagine it was. Except The Weasel’s Tale doesn’t take place in Hollywood but somewhere just outside of Buenos Aires and the forgotten doyenne was an Argentine movie icon. But the American crooners on the soundtrack and the little gold man statue that gets pride of place among her awards make the connection between the two countries and their film industries unmistakable.
Graciela Borges is Mara Ordaz, a faded star who now lives with her husband, Pedro (Luis Brandoni)–also a former actor but a far less successful one–her former director, Norberto (Oscar Martinez), and her former screenwriter, Martín (Marcos Munstock). The men are content to spend the rest of their lives shooting pool and shooting the vermin who have infested the house. But Mara longs for a new start. So when a young couple of real estate developers (Clara Lago and Nicolás Francella) make a play to buy her home for a tidy sum, she’s eager to accept. Pedro, Norberto and Martín aren’t going to give up their cushy retirement that easily, though. And so an increasingly dangerous series of plots and schemes are developed.
The Weasel’s Tale is a remake of a 1976 film called Los muchachos de antes no usaban arsénico. But with its sharp-tongued dialogue every bit as dense as its madcap plotting, it feels like a throwback to an even older era, that of the screwball comedy (though quite a bit darker than those tended to be).
On occasion, the screenplay is, in fact, a little much, sometimes overly foreshadowing future revelations. And it’s far too pleased with itself in the moments when the characters appear to be aware they’re in a movie; when one of them remarks on how long it took to give a tour of the house, another says, “Almost a whole act!” Martín the former screenwriter in particular can’t help but comment on expositional dialogue or the introduction of the central conflict.
In these moments, there’s an imbalance in the wordy movie’s signal to noise ratio. That loudness is mirrored in the garish lighting, costumes and production design but those elements are at least a consistent part of The Weasel’s Tale‘s tapestry.
At over two hours, it sometimes drags but there’s always an assurance that the next scene could be one of the movie’s many great ones, like the charged battle of wits that takes place while a full game of billiards is played or the climactic scene where we and the audience hang in perfect tension on every word of Norberto’s magnificent monologue. Over time, the other stuff will fade away and The Weasel’s Tale will rightly be remembered only for the best parts, just like a former screen star.