It's easy enough to understand why "The Other Side of the Bed," with its good-natured skewering of infidelity and its generous display of sex and nudity, was a critical and popular success last year in Spain. It's a serviceable date-night movie -- provided the daters are willing to sit still for subtitles or are fluent in Spanish. However, the film is too commercial and obvious to have much appeal for the usual art house audience.
In a Madrid cafe the beautiful, blond Paula (Natalia Verbeke) breaks the news to her boyfriend, Pedro (Guillermo Toledo), that she has fallen in love with another man, omitting that the other man is his best friend, Javier (Ernesto Alterio). It does not come as a shock that Javier's ravishing live-in lover, Sonia (Paz Vega), soon feeling lonely with Javier so increasingly away on "business," finds herself consoling poor Pedro, a likably shaggy young man badly hurting from Paula's departure.
In the meantime, the slippery Javier piles on lies and excuses to Paula for not leaving Sonia. Javier and Pedro hang out with their taxi-driving pal Rafa (Alberto San Juan), a male chauvinist who brags to his friends of his prodigious unfaithfulness to his girlfriend. The guys are uncomfortable with homosexuality, but their attitudes toward women are not much more enlightened than those toward gays, for which the filmmakers zap them with some humor.
The film, which gets very complicated, is occasionally crass, sometimes amusing but on the whole fairly shallow. Writer David Serrano and director Emilio Martinez-Lazaro deftly pass out the just deserts before they're through, but their characters don't have enough substance or wit to make them engaging. Toledo's Pedro is by far the most multishaded and appealing presence, while Alterio's Javier and some of the other men are downright repellent. Nonetheless, Martinez-Lazaro melds his attractive cast into a smooth ensemble, and his film is stylish and well paced.
The film is at its most original when it incorporates a series of musical numbers linking the major sequences, in which the stars perform, with a chorus of singer-dancers, songs that illustrate their shifting moods and feelings. "The Other Side of the Bed" is consistently sleek but works best if no more is expected of it than a mild diversion.
'The Other Side of the Bed'
MPAA rating: Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language
Times guidelines: Wholly inappropriate for children
Alberto San Juan...Rafa
A Sundance Channel presentation. Director Emilio Martinez-Lazaro. Producers Tomas Cimadevella, Jose Antonio Sainz de Vicuna. Screenplay David Serrano. Cinematographer Juan Molina Temboury. Editor Angel Hernandez-Zoido. Music Roque Banos. Choreographer Pedro Berdayes. Costumes Inma Garcia. Art director Julio Torrecilla. In Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.
Exclusively at the Beverly Center Cineplex, Beverly Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard, (310) 652-7760.