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A cinematic mocking of Mexico's nouveau riche

Moviegoers tired of the arrogant behavior of the country's 'Juniors' and 'Ladies' have turned Gary 'Gaz' Alazraki's screwball satire 'Nosotros los Nobles' (We Are the Nobles) into a mega-hit.

August 19, 2013|By Tracy Wilkinson
  • Luis Gerardo Mendez, left, Juan Pablo Gil and Karla Souza play the spoiled Noble children, Javi, Cha and Barbara, in the movie "Nosotros Los Nobles" (We Are the Nobles).
Luis Gerardo Mendez, left, Juan Pablo Gil and Karla Souza play the spoiled… (Alazraki Films )

MEXICO CITY — Gary "Gaz" Alazraki was a young Mexican student at USC's film school when the idea came to him to make a movie satirizing his country's nouveau riche and newly powerful.

It took him more than a dozen years, but his film — inspired by the American screwball comedies of the 1930s — became a mega-hit in Mexico, taking in 400 million pesos (roughly $32 million) in its first months of release this spring.

"Nosotros los Nobles" (We Are the Nobles) tells the story of a wealthy construction tycoon, German Noble; his spoiled, good-for-nothing adult children; and his scheme to pretend he's gone bankrupt to force them — horror of horrors — to get jobs.

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The movie has shattered box-office records in Mexico and is getting distribution worldwide. The producers said it will be distributed in the U.S. by Cine Latino and Gussic Inc., with an opening date as early as November. Meanwhile, Alazraki, 35, is riding a wave of fame that he hopes to parlay into bigger things.

The secret to the film's success is not its artistry; as one critic here put it, this movie is not going to Cannes. Rough around the edges, perhaps, "Los Nobles" is nevertheless a keen-eyed capture of the mores and pretensions of a class of Mexicans who feel blithely entitled thanks to their position (or, more likely, Daddy's position), flaunt their wealth and obliviousness, fribble away their days and think the world is here to serve them.

It has clearly tapped a nerve, coming at a time when Mexico is growing increasingly intolerant of the unearned arrogance that has long permeated the country's elite. To Alazraki's good fortune, release of the movie coincided with a string of incidents in which the rich and famous, and especially their children, were caught (on video, on Twitter) slapping police officers, fleeing scenes of car crashes, insulting the poor and generally throwing ill-mannered tantrums.

One young woman, the daughter of the head of the federal consumer protection agency, got her dad's inspectors to shut down a restaurant after it wouldn't give her the table she wanted. (Dad eventually got fired over that one, because of the public outcry.)

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"There is a kind of national consensus against this kind of behavior," Alazraki said during a recent interview in Mexico City, where he lives. "We connected to a zeitgeist. But I never thought it would be this big."

Mexicans are all too familiar with these scions of conspicuous consumption that Alazraki portrays in the film. The men wearing designer sunglasses, open-to-the-chest shirts and heavy gold jewelry are called "Juniors," the women in the latest, tallest heels and perfect coifs are "Ladies."

In the film, Noble's eldest son, Javi, spends his days taking the family private jet, accompanied by fellow Juniors, all with beers in hand, to run off to Miami in pursuit of one silly "project" after another. (One involves concocting the world's largest rum and Coke.)

Daughter Barbie is a Lady Who Lunches, treats servants and waiters like dirt (she leaves a 4% tip at a restaurant after complaining that her goat cheese was overly melted) and is engaged to marry a Spaniard (a fake one, as it turns out; he even fakes the lisp) who we first see reading a copy of the Mexican version of People magazine with a picture of himself on the cover.

The third offspring is a son, Cha, who dedicates his time to yoga, pot, New Age blather and bedding teachers at the university he manages to get himself expelled from.

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The lives of the Noble children are upended when their father pretends to go bankrupt and stages a raid on his mansion, police roaring in past the legion of family bodyguards and late-model SUVs. They escape in a cab, bringing along the maid, and end up living in a slum. Already eye-opening and shocking to the children, their fate worsens as they must for the first time ever actually go to work.

Javi ends up driving one of those death-defying minibuses that chug through the traffic-choked streets of Mexico City. Barbie is a mini-skirted waitress in a raucous cantina ("I look like a slut!" she complains about the outfit she is given to wear; "That never bothered you before," chides the cook, who once worked in their mansion).

Cha becomes a bank teller, one of the most stultifying professions in Mexico, where he is harassed by a sexually hungry female boss.

If moviegoers here recognize these characters, so does Alazraki. He too is a Junior, he readily admits, the blue-eyed, fair-skinned son of a rich advertising entrepreneur who probably could have gone through life like Javi.

Instead, Alazraki said in the interview, his stint at USC and a girlfriend there who waited tables to put herself through school taught him the value of work.

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