“The Other Side of the Bed” – A.J. Hakari

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character famously compared a relationship to a shark, in how it has to keep moving forward in order to avoid dying out. The Other Side of the Bed, a romantic comedy/drama/musical (and probably about twenty other genres, too), is filled to the brim with characters dedicated to performing such a feat — and often with more than one partner, as well. But The Other Side of the Bed has more light-hearted aspirations in mind than Allen’s masterpiece. The film doesn’t pretend to make any poignant observations on the state of love in modern times, instead preferring to entertain the audience with its characters and the sheer romantic chaos their stories end up generating.

Javier (Ernesto Alterio) enjoys a loving relationship with his girlfriend Sonia (Paz Vega), a serenity that seems to be shared between his buddy Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) and his significant other, Paula (Natalia Verbeke). But that peace is soon shattered when Paula unceremoniously dumps Pedro, announcing that she’s found true love in the arms of another. Pedro seeks some much-needed consolation from Javier, unaware that he’s the man that Paula ditched him for. However, now that hers and Pedro’s relationship is kaput, Paula is putting the pressure on Javier to leave Sonia, something that he’s not quite ready and willing to do. But as Javier tries to stall Paula from spilling the beans, he also finds himself having to prevent Pedro from finding out about their tryst, not realizing that his efforts to do so may end up driving Pedro into Sonia’s arms.

The Other Side of the Bed is what would happen if a Bollywood musical and a Spanish telenovela were involved in a head-on collision. There are enough people falling in and out of love (and lust) with one another to fill at least a couple seasons’ worth of soap operas, and on top of that, these characters have a tendency to launch themselves into ballads on how much women suck on a moment’s notice. This all might sound a bit chauvinistic, but keep in mind that The Other Side of the Bed is being played as a complete farce, a purposefully complicated battle of the sexes in which neither side is exactly the innocent type. This isn’t a case like The Last Kiss, in which the entire cast is populated by self-serving jerks who we’re expected to sympathize with. Here, all you have to do is sit back and let the insanity carry you away, and on this level, The Other Side of the Bed works pretty well. The script knows when to carry on certain plot threads and when to introduce new ones, never letting the story grow too stale and ensuring that you’ll be interested in where the plot goes until the very end.

It also helps that The Other Side of the Bed maintains a pretty relaxed attitude towards sex; it’s not a prudish film, but it doesn’t throw in sex arbitrarily either. The flick keeps such matters fairly grounded, so when certain characters do engage in a little of ye olde hanky-panky, it feels natural, as opposed to being there just as an incentive for the guys whose girlfriends demanded they rent the film. The actors do a good job in maintaining the flick’s down-to-earth feel, with Alterio and Toledo delivering solid turns as the beleaguered men trying to keep the lid on their respective affairs, as well as Vega and Verbeke doing a swell job of playing a pair of real beauties who aren’t as monogamous as they claim either. What didn’t work for me, though, were the song-and-dance numbers, which didn’t really serve much purpose and weren’t even all that entertaining, looking as if they were choreographed by someone who saw Grease once as a kid. Also, while I didn’t expect the story to wrap itself with a completely tidy bow, the film’s ending defines the term “anti-climactic,” stopping itself so abruptly, I had to check and see if my DVD copy was busted.

The Other Side of the Bed is nothing groundbreaking when it comes to relationship comedies; everything this movie does, Woody Allen’s done it better. But what matters is that despite its flaws, it’s still a pretty fun film. The drama is absurdly complicated, the ladies are most certainly lovely, and the film’s all-around demeanor is smart, with a nice hint of silliness.

Rating: ★★★☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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