Dry Martina shares both a cinematographer and an unconventional, self-determined female protagonist with Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman.
Yet, mired in aimless plotting and mixed messages about female sexuality, this picture is unlikely to achieve anything near the arthouse impact of Lelio’s Oscar-winner. It should, however, generate some further interest on the festival circuit following its play in Tribeca’s International Narrative Competition.
Although the film touches on the link between female self-worth and sexual currency, and although it approaches the erotic scenes with uninhibited candour, there is a hint of disapproval and distaste which attaches itself to Martina’s drive for gratification.
This comes partly through the recurring motif of a cat on heat – hardly the most celebratory image to associate with female sexuality – and partly through César’s shell-shocked reaction to Martina’s admittedly exhaustive – and exhausting –account of her past romantic encounters.
Martina’s relationship with her parents is no less complicated.
Her mother, also a singer, left a shadow that Martina could never quite escape. And her father lies in a coma. Martina visits him to update him on the current status of her vagina and its activities; she chooses not to turn off his life support, she quips, because it would deny her the opportunity to kill him with her bare hands.
Her journey to Chile, tracking César to his rudimentary apartment in Santiago, fails to bring her the physical release she craves. But does offer an alternative family in the form of Fran and her abrasive father Nacho (Patricio Contreras). With her erratic love life and suicidal impulses. Fran offers a cracked kinship with Martina, whether or not they turn out to be related.
And after a sticky start, Nacho and Martina strike up a friendship. It is to them, this ad hoc family unit, that Martina turns when she has been disappointed, yet again, by men.
As befitting a film about a fading pop star, music is central to the story.
Her hit songs are, initially, an annoyance to Martina – a painful reminder of the success she no longer enjoys. But she comes to accept the fact that the music has a life beyond being a vehicle for her celebrity. It’s a pity however that the film’s soundtrack – leaning heavily on soggy ballads and torch songs – fails to drive the story as efficiently as it might.
There’s something to be said for a character study that reflects its protagonist quite as much as Che Sandoval’s Dry Martina. The only problem is that the film, which follows a fading child pop star as she, in turn. That follows a man from Argentina to Chile in search of her lost libido, reflects all the worst qualities of its subject. Full of aimlessness and inconsistency, it’s an unengaging affair that snuck into the Netflix thumbnails today. That without much fuss and will likely remain there without much examination.
The idea of a child star having long-since lost their luster is not a new one. But rarely have avatars of those receding glory days been quite as petulant about the matter as Martina (Antonella Costa). She longs for the success she no longer gets to enjoy, and for the kind of romantic encounters she once indulged in. That to emerge from a shadow left by a mother (also a singer) and a comatose father.
The arrival of Fran (Geraldine Neary), apparently a long-lost sister, reinvigorates Martina,
Though mostly because Fran’s boyfriend, César (Pedro Campos). That is apparently worth following from Argentina to Chile in the hopes. He’ll reignite whatever sexual spark inside Martina was snuffed out by age and normality. It’s hardly a compelling or worthwhile setup, not even when Dry Martina turns its focus to family in the wake of romantic disappointment.
That’s mostly because all the film’s messages — from sexual freedom to female self-esteem and self-worth. That to finding family wherever you can — are mixed; fitting. I suppose, for a story about a former celebrity who got everything she wanted before she had time to learn what she needed. But that accidental or perhaps intentional correlation never amounts to much, least of all a compelling film. It’s an erratic affair that feels somewhat desperate in all its efforts. And if Martina is in search of renewed success, she’s unlikely to find it here.
Genre: Art House & International, Comedy, Drama
Directed By: Che Sandoval
Stars: Antonella Costa, Patricio Contreras, Dindi Jane
Writer: Che Sandoval
Runtime: 95 minutes
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR DRY MARTINA
Sandoval’s film is sexy, but still somehow not entirely sex positive.
Like the strong-minded but somewhat petulant Martina herself, the film delivers plenty of heady sensuality but is mainly skin deep and, ultimately fails to satisfy.
Juan Pablo Russo
Everyone is at the height of their circumstance and without needing to justify itself