A Fantastic Woman
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released: Februay 2017
Imagine a woman, in her late 20’s or so, a waitress and an aspiring opera singer. She is dating a rather wealthy man in his early 60’s, and has recently moved into his rather luxurious apartment. The man is divorced or separated from his wife, with whom he has a nine-year-old daughter. He left her for the younger woman, apparently unable or unwilling to keep his urges for the younger woman in check, thinking he is in love. One day, the man falls suddenly ill after sex with the younger woman and dies in the hospital. After his death, the woman still has the keys to the man’s car and apartment and takes her sweet time giving both of them up to her late lover’s family. She insists on attending the dead man’s services in spite of the demand by the family that she stay away to spare their feelings, including that of the nine-year-old. The question: Is this a Fantastic Woman?
Ah, but I left out one smallest of small details—the woman, quite recently, went by the name of Daniel. The Fantastic Woman is, you see, a transsexual named Marina. And Marina seems nice enough, a person with insecurities and talents and the need for love, just like anyone else. But because she was a man, she gets treated impolitely, even harshly, by a number of people she encounters after the death of her boyfriend, Orlando.
|Marina and Old Orlando|
For one thing, when she brings him to the hospital, the staff don’t consider her family and therefore don’t allow her into his room. While waiting for Marina to take him to the hospital, Orlando takes a tumble down a flight of stairs, resulting in some bruising and a contusion on his head. Marina is questioned by police about it and about the fact that she inexplicably ran away from the hospital for a time after bringing Orlando there; they wrongly suspect there may have been domestic abuse. During questioning they check Marina’s ID and take pictures of Marina’s entire body to check for bruises--as someone puts it, she "hasn't had the operation yet." Orlando’s ex-wife isn’t too big a fan either. She tells Marina that when Orlando left her, she told him that Marina was a perversion. She calls Marina a “chimera,” which seems to cut Marina deeply. I had to look up the definition--"an illusion or fabrication of the mind." Ouch?
From what I could gather, the point of the film was to elicit sympathy for Marina and antipathy for those who mistreat Marina. The plot was rather thin and the last 30 minutes or so seemed to drag on endlessly with no real resolution. Basically, it seems what makes Marina a fantastic woman is that she is a victim.
The films is very skillfully and aesthetically photographed, a real pleasure to look at. Santiago, Chile, comes off looking bright, sophisticated, and colorful. The acting was fine, though I found Daniella Vega, who plays Marina, to be a bit one-note, not really moving beyond a sort of dull melancholy. Overall, this wasn’t a bad movie, really, just an overpraised one. Again, had the main character not been transgendered/transexual, I would have still found Marina to be hard to like. But while the Academy, the critics, and whoever wrote the film wanted the viewer to find Marina to be “fantastic,” I did not.
|Some guy stuck on an elevator with Marina and Orlando's wife: AWKWARD!|
The Title: Una mujer fantastic. We live in a time in which one has to be careful when one discusses any LGBTQ in a manner that is anything but fully accepting. In many circles, it is frowned upon, even illegal, to not accept a person’s gender as something other than what they were born as. That said, I found it interesting that the protagonist in this film is labeled “fantastic,” a word which can be defined as “based on fantasy, not real.” I suppose the writer of the film, which very much is sympathetic to Marina, may have been trying to be ironic, or witty, or something.
The culture: First Best Foreign Film winner from Chile, it comes off as a slightly less than conservative country, with vestiges of its Catholic heritage intact.
Agenda danger: Frankly, I had a bit of a headache from being hit over the head with the message of the film, which was that those who don’t accept trans-sexuality are numerous and despicable. In one scene, a group of thugs terrorize Marina with slurs and wrap her head in scotch tape. But even the people who seem to be polite to Marina hold an obvious dislike for who she is or has chosen to be.
|Scene from The Shape of Water|
Best Picture that year: The Shape of Water. Hoo boy, it seems Oscar had a real agenda on its (his? her?) mind this year. This Guillermo del Toro film tells the story of a woman who has a hankering for a fish. And I don’t mean she enjoys a good tuna fish sandwich every now and again; I mean she enjoys getting boned by a fish man, obviously not a fillet. That story, while more “fantastic” than A Fantastic Woman, is even more blatant in its message that all relationships of a sexual nature are equally acceptable. Even if one agrees with this concept wholeheartedly, it's hard not to feel preached to in watching these two films.
Rating: I didn’t find this film fantastic by any definition. Mostly, it was a bore.