The liberalization of Spain in the aftermath of Franco’s death provides the chaotic framework for Dunia Ayaso and Félix Sabroso caustic seriocomedy Rated-R, a deconstruction of the cine del destape (literally, “uncovered films”) wave of risqué, low budget comedies that sought to push the envelope of social mores and dismantle taboos reinforced during Franco’s repressive government (usually involving religion or sexuality) within the thinly veiled guise of creating film art. Shot from the perspective of three actresses discovered by a second-rate independent filmmaker and aspiring auteur named Manuel (Antonio de la Torre) – a struggling stage performer, Sandra (Candela Peña) who sees the advent of ‘S-films’ as a potential foot in the door towards a more legitimate career in the mainstream movie industry, a street savvy hustler, Lina (Goya Toledo) whose interest in the films lies in the easy money she earns using minimal skills to turn out interchangeable performances (often, not even memorizing her lines in favor of reciting random numbers, knowing that the dialogue will be dubbed anyway), and Eva (Mar Flores), a young woman who moved from the country in order to break free from an abusive home and start a new life in Madrid – Rated-R illustrates the ingrained patriarchal systems and cycles of exploitation that continue to exist beneath the euphoria of newfound freedom and self-expression. Reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights in its de-eroticized search for intimacy and connection and Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother in the idea of performance as a conduit for empowerment, the film is a provocative, if overripe portrait of a society at a moral crossroads, where liberation itself can be a form of repression in its naïvete and disorientation.
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