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The structural framework of the decidedly bittersweet 20 centimetres and its embellished story form takes a slight tumble in lieu of writer-director Ramn Salazars audacious dreamscape each time Marieta (Monica Cervera), his narcoleptic transvestite prostitute rescinds into a reverie of lavish proportions. Even as subplots are left in the backburner and secondary characters fail to flesh out, there is still a distinct sense that its oddly themed musical numbers is the films real headliner, with Cerveras ballsy performance running a close second.
Brazenly referential, it cheekily cribs off Bollywood, old-school Broadway musical extravaganzas and 80s pop chic, which for the best part of Marietas expressive subconscious actually turns out rather fabulous. Then theres even Salazars particularly bold self-reflexive flamboyancy that winks to the inevitable comparisons to his thematic cousin in Almodvar. The energy that these musical numbers bring to the film contrasts the fairly sombre narrative that threatens to bring Marietas colourful proceedings crashing right down to earth. Morose enough for us to question whether her eventful, show-stopping scenes are a regressive retreat into fantastical stardom or just merely flights of fancy that occurs each time her narcolepsy acts up, which really should not be played up for tepid laughs considering what she does for a living.
Life altering decisions abound for the high-strung Marieta as she unexpectedly meets hunky grocer, Raul (Pablo Puyol) who finds both Marieta and her 20 centimeters of dangling flesh ravishing. The nascent romance poses a problem for Marietas hopes for the gender reassignment surgery. If the subplots revolving around Marieta were a juggling act, then the transsexual angst brought to the fore by Rauls sudden appearance is its most slippery club. It becomes an awkward two-headed hybrid structure when it starts to raise questions about sexuality atop of sensuality that tonally fails to complement the kitschy tunes that veer in and out of the story.
Salazar admirably does not involve himself too much in the social conditions that the conventionally sincere Marieta and her motley crew of neighbours reside in. Every one of Marietas acquaintances and friends are characters in the truest sense of the word. Minorities on the wayside and freaks to all but themselves, Salazar lovingly observes them through heavily tinted lenses. He makes the dysfunction, function through them with ease, each with a backstory if explored, would be undoubtedly as interesting as his Marietas is. But if anything, Salazars supreme accomplishment would be cementing Cervera as the star of his production.