The Spanish language film Miki Maniac is a great attempt from breakthrough Venezuelan director Carla Forte (ANN, Rabbit) that examines the breakdown and comeback of the main characters who are cast off from their jobs at Disney corporate stand-in ‘happiest place on Earth’ show Miki and Friends. Filmed in Florida but you’d never know it to look at the visuals, MIKI MANIACO seems like a movie displaced from ‘normal’ cinema, and that’s not a bad thing.
A good portion of this movie takes place on a boat Miki (Carlos Antonio León) shares with his castmate and girlfriend Mimi (Lola Amores) and occasionally cuts away to interview-style shots featuring Miki.
Stylistic is one way to describe the movie. Presented in black and white, MIKI MANIACO lingers on their characters and feels more like an avant-garde French art nouveau film than what one would typically see, even on the indie festival circuit. This isn’t a bad thing, as it allows the actors the chance to truly emote and give their all in every scene they’re featured in. Carlos Antonio León’s performance as Miki showcases the entire range of human emotion and expresses the rage his character feels at his predicament, and seamlessly blends his anger and toxicity in his relationships with his former employer, his girlfriend, with the sympathy we feel for his character’s obvious failing health due to (presumably) drinking and drug use.
Having worked in the entertainment industry for years, the character of Miki could be anyone cast off from a long-running show who doesn’t know how to move forward afterwards, and is instead sick both physically and mentally.
There’s ‘fly on the wall’ cinema style and there’s this movie, which tries to do this. You can see how the camera is trying to be objective in some shots, intrusive in others, which come together in odd and sometimes compelling editing choices.
The entire cast shows their wholehearted trust in Carla Forte’s direction, giving all-in performances that show believable relationships between the characters and shows the personal struggles their dealing with.
While admittedly there’s a fair share of scene chewing in this film, as would be expected in the artsy depiction of the narrative, but the effort here is evident and should be commended.
The audio feels very “indie film” which is to say you can hear the budget limitations in this particular aspect of the movie. The song choices are deliberate, and you can tell the director and the composer Abiram Brizuela crafted the sound of certain scenes to evoke specific emotions.
Ultimately the film doesn’t quite reach the summit of the mountain it’s trying to climb, but it’s a noble and artistic effort that any festival-goer or cinema lover, especially people who respect international-flavor cinema, will absolutely appreciate.
Review Note: I watched the Spanish version of this film which wasn’t subtitled, so I did my best in my understanding of the narrative with my limited ability to translate. A positive note is that the performances informed the story greatly, and I was able to understand the broad strokes of the movie while admittedly potentially missing the more subtle parts.
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