“Everybody Loves Somebody” doesn’t reinvent the rom-com, but it manages to take the formula, shake it up a bit and come up with something that feels fresh and inventive.
Our heroine is Dr. Clara Barron, a successful OB/GYN in Los Angeles. She isn’t some moon-eyed ingenue waiting for Mr. Right. She sleeps around, drinks too much and tends to speak without a filter, a trait which doesn’t always endear her to patients. Karla Souza from TV’s “How to Get Away with Murder” is a perfect fit for the role. Souza never goes for simply being cute or funny; instead, she brings a tartness to the part, making Clara an awkward mess who is still smart and likable. That’s not always easy to do.
Clara needs to drive to Ensenada, Baja California, for a wedding. Not just any wedding; her parents are finally getting married after being together for 40 years, and she’s the maid of honor. She needs a quick date for the event and latches on to a young Australian medical resident named Asher (Ben O’Toole). They bond on the drive over. Clara even invents for him a Sonoran grandmother named Jacinta so he’ll fit in better. “We can give her an easier name if you like,” Clara offers. “Can you handle ‘Maria’?”
They arrive at her parents’ gorgeous house — seriously, the movie could serve as a tourism commercial for Ensenada — and she finds a surprise guest. Daniel (José María Yazpik), a physician who works for Doctors Without Borders, shows up. We gradually learn he left her years ago, breaking her heart. Daniel is dashing and witty, though maybe not as carefree as he likes to appear. As Clara accurately notes, he’s the kind of guy who has mastered the art of “how to dress without people noticing you think about it a lot.”
That’s a good example of the kind of fun, pointed dialogue writer-director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta excels at. Daniel teases Clara about Asher, and she says she’s merely “trying him on for size.” His response: “He’s too small for you.” There is also a delightful scene in which she gets shy about undressing in front of Daniel. She jiggles the flab under arms; he scrunches his forehead to accentuate the wrinkles. We can tell these two go way back, and why they were good together.
While there are plenty of laughs, Aguilar Mastretta keeps everything human and believable. For example, there is a lovely moment at the family home in Mexico. Daniel plays the piano while the family sings “Un Mundo Raro,” a Mexican standard. It may sound hokey in print, but the scene just works onscreen, boasting a cozy warmth and creating a strong sense of family.
The movie seamlessly weaves between Spanish and English (Spanish scenes are subtitled) in an organic fashion that never feels forced. This isn’t Spanglish thrown in to be trendy; characters here tend to speak one language at a time. Similarly, Aguilar Mastretta is terrific when she deals with the film’s ethnic aspect, or rather, doesn’t deal with it. These characters don’t talk about being Mexican; they simply are Mexican. That’s a distinction you don’t see enough in U.S.-set films.
Yazpik, like Souza, is well-known in Mexico, and he brings his full movie-star charisma to Daniel while still creating a fully rounded character. He and Souza have such a playful, familiar chemistry, it throws the film slightly off-balance. How can Asher compete? As written, Asher is presented as the voice of reason, which makes him a bit of a wet blanket. It doesn’t help that, at times, O’Toole brings to mind the unearthly smugness of Vincent Kartheiser in his “Mad Men” role of Pete Campbell.
Then again, one of the neat things about “Everybody Loves Somebody” is that it doesn’t hinge on who, if anyone, Clara will wind up with. Instead, it’s more about the journey that she’s on, and it’s quite an enjoyable one.
Randy Cordova, USA TODAY Network
Pantelion presents a film written and directed by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta. Rated PG-13 (for some sexual content and language). Running time: 90 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.