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DVD Review: Lili’s Apron

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

Ramón and Lili are barely getting by on the lower rungs of Argentina’s social hierarchy when their nearly simultaneous job losses force them to improvise. Lili is mentally unstable and clearly not suited to return to the workforce, while Ramón is a cook by trade but unable to find any work in his field. When a housekeeping opportunity presents itself, Ramón latches onto the desperate idea of impersonating his wife in order to land the job and keep them afloat financially. While Ramón’s cross-dressing role sounds like a standard setup for comedy, Lili’s Apron is instead a bleak drama about the plight of this impoverished couple.

Although the film’s concept has merit, its production values are fairly pedestrian. The opening is a jumble of quick cut scenes that have no apparent coherence, and this scattershot editing is repeated occasionally throughout the film, leading to occasional bewilderment trying to determine the gist of the plot. The camera work is static except for some erratic manual zooms that lessen the overall quality. Even the staging is of a lackadaisical cinema verite nature, somewhat appropriate considering the subject matter but so drab and unfocused that it lessens any strength the actors bring to the production. The film eventually finds its groove and allows the actors more opportunity to make an impact in longer scenes as the film progresses, but derails again near the end with an ill-advised violent turn of events.

The actors playing the lead roles put in commendable performances, but the film never really delivers as an effective critique of Argentina’s economic crisis or as a compelling interpersonal drama. Ramón is shown to be uncooperative in his initial workplace, so his subsequent firing fails to elicit any sympathy. Likewise, Lili’s bizarre blink-and-you-miss-it dismissal doesn’t provide any background supporting her as an effective worker. Regardless of their social class and mental stability, they’re not shown to be desirable employees so it’s difficult to care about their resulting struggle. Also, there’s no real macro view presented to frame their struggle or define the country’s economic conditions, so although viewers may suspect that their situation is a microcosm of Argentina’s working class society as a whole, the film’s sole focus is their individual hardships that could conceivably occur in any era, country or social class. While it’s refreshing to see a project of this nature emerge from Argentina, there’s really not much on display worth recommendation.

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