By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Language, mature themes in sharp Spanish showbiz satire.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Don't take yourself or your (or other people's) art too seriously. Don't always take people at their word. Question your own tastes, and push yourself to explore artistic products and positions you might not understand.
Positive Role Models
Humberto wants to create a lasting legacy, albeit in largely egocentric ways. Lola wants to express her artistic vision but tries to inspire her actors in iffy, sometimes cruel ways, though she seems to care about them. The actors pretend to be something they're not; both are dedicated to their craft. Characters are also largely pretentious, deceitful, self-interested.
Main characters are Spanish and Argentinean, and the film is shot in Spanish. A strong woman with agency is at the center (though she doesn't always use her strength for the right reasons). Incidental LGBTQ+ representation (two women enter a relationship).
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Violence & Scariness
Detailed description of a drunk-driving car accident. Two people practice martial arts moves. A person's face is accidentally cut by someone else throwing a chair; it bleeds minimally. A character reveals a cancer diagnosis. A character falls from a height and is seriously injured.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A main character seems to be dating or sleeping with or kissing or flirting with someone new every day. In one scene, he's sitting in bed with a woman who's naked, her breasts visible. In a film rehearsal, two men and a woman all kiss an actress passionately. A man mentions potentially getting an erection. In a book, there's a glimpse of female body parts. A story involves a sex worker. A man makes a joke about all his kids being made with the same "one" (pointing to his penis). One character appears to have spent the night with another and does a sexy dance in her underwear. Talk of men comparing "d--k" size.
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Frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass kisser," "goddamn," "hell," "bitch," "d--k," "crap," "bastard," "p---y," "wanker," "whore," "turd," "pr--k," "idiot," "jerk," "fathead," "jeez." Reviewed in the original Spanish with English subtitles.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink and smoke in multiple scenes. An actor plays a drunk man who has caused a car accident.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Spanish-language film industry satire Official Competition (Competencia Oficial) tackles mature themes and has some violence and lots of language. The film's dark humor and characters' self-centered motivations could fly over younger viewers' heads, as could the subject matter of the film within a film: adult sibling rivalry, imprisonment for drunk driving, and two brothers in love with the same woman. There's passionate kissing, partial nudity (bare breasts, underwear), and sexual and anatomical references. A man reveals a dire medical diagnosis, and another falls from a height and appears dead. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes. Swearing is prevalent, and in one scene two men hurl escalating insults at each other as part of an acting "exercise." Language (in English subtitles for this review) includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn," "bitch," "d--k," "p---y," and more. Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martínez star.
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What's the Story?
In OFFICIAL COMPETITION, aging pharmaceutical executive Humberto Suárez (José Luis Gómez) is looking to spend his money on something that will leave him with a permanent legacy. So he decides to produce a movie. He acquires the rights to a prize-winning book for a pretty penny and attaches avant-garde director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz) to helm the project. She brings on two very different actors to star: global idol Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) and arthouse master/acting coach Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez). Sparks fly in rehearsals as Lola pushes the men to elicit prime performances, and the actors push each other's buttons ... and play on each other's weaknesses.
Is It Any Good?
Three incredible performances make this hilariously dark send-up of the film industry entertaining from start to finish, though it might not be every viewer's cup of tea. Official Competition captures the egotism of its characters, each with their own self-serving artistic beliefs and methods. The way that Cruz, Banderas, and veteran Argentine actor Martínez capture this in their stances, glances, and sweeping pronouncements is both hysterical and cringeworthy for its similarity to the behavior of some real-life film industry folks. An empty warehouse rehearsal, with a "house" simply cordoned off, suggests Lars von Trier's experimental Dogville. Closing scenes add to the pile of targets, with red carpet photo calls and a pompous press conference. Anyone who's been to these kinds of events or worked in the film industry will recognize the "types" on display, and this film might appeal especially to critics and insiders. But thanks to the high-caliber actors and the absurd twists and turns of the story, the film should also appeal more broadly. Its nearly two-hour run time flies by.
The film-within-the-film is based on a book about a rivalry between two brothers, a "competition" that's paralleled hilariously in the two actors. A master of the humble brag, Iván practices a speech renouncing an Oscar, skewers the lack of originality in mainstream entertainment, and absolutely insists on flying coach and rejecting big paychecks. Meanwhile, Banderas' Félix (a potentially meta character for the actor, since he's a global star who must defend his studio films to fellow actors), has macrobiotic food and a no-face-touching policy written into his contracts. And as the wild-haired Lola, Cruz's artistic and existential angst hints at how meaningless some of her aspirations and techniques might actually be. The film's cold, modern settings reflect this hollowness (with a nod to a millionaire's vast but empty "foundation" space). Likewise, there's symbolism in the film's use of screens, cameras, and especially mirrors to reflect fractured, enlarged, imitative images back at the characters.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about whether the characters in Official Competition might be based in reality. If so, what or who do you think inspired them?
Do Lola's exercises, though sometimes absurd and other times cruel, elicit good performances from her actors? Does that justify her methods?
What is Humberto's motivation in producing this film? Does he take a genuine interest in it?
What other movies about movie-making have you seen? How does this one compare?
How do the settings of the film mirror, sometimes literally, the plot and characters?
- In theaters: June 17, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2022
- Cast: Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martinez
- Directors: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Arts and Dance
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some nudity
- Last updated: February 22, 2023
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