Pedro Almodovar broke onto the international scene with this vibrant sex farce, which whirls about like a brightly painted spinning top. With its skewed camera angles, brash colors and outrageous characters, the movie is as much a live-action cartoon as its fellow 1988 release, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Women gets off to a slow start, but only because Almodovar has a lot of characters – his spinning tops – to set in motion. The action centers on Pepa (Carmen Maura), an impulsive, volatile actress who has just been dumped – via voicemail message – by her playboy lover (Fernando Guillen). While trying to track him down, Pepa butts heads with his unstable ex-wife (Julieta Serrano) and discovers he has a handsome son (Antonio Banderas) who is engaged to a painfully homely woman (Rossy de Palma). Each of these characters – plus Pepa’s friend (Maria Barranco), who recently discovered her boyfriend is a Shiite terrorist – eventually wind up in Pepa’s garishly decorated penthouse. There they hatch schemes, swap partners and generally cause more chaos in their lives than is necessary. Throughout, Almodovar keeps his trademark empathic stance, one that is always loving but never indulgent. The director doesn’t quite condone his characters’ often foolish behavior, yet he is careful not to condemn them for it either. Coursing with a sense of freedom – sexual and otherwise – Women on the Verge allows its characters to live life as if it were a high-wire act. If they fall, Almodovar is there to catch them with a warm, accepting embrace. To watch the movie is to feel embraced too.