Álex de la Iglesia’s La Chispa de la via (As Luck would have It) is an abomination that gets progressively worse until it becomes unbearable. For a start, it’s a ‘black comedy’ which is always a tricky genre to get right. I can’t think of any great black comedies off the top of my head. Of course they exist, but they usually miss the mark a little. (Ah, In Bruges that was one, and that was well done. Oh, and Fargo.) This one, starring José Motael as Roberto and Selma Hayek as his wife Luisa, misses the mark entirely. Its intent is to be a satire on the relentlessness and immoral core of the media, or something along those lines, but it is nowhere near intelligent or insightful enough (Harold and Maud is another by the way).
Roberto is an unemployed advertising executive who once showed talent, he came up with the slogun ‘Life’s little spark’ for a Coca Cola campaign, but for the past two years has struggled to find work. He leaves home one morning for an interview he doesn’t get, is ignored by his old acquaintances and has a mildly funny interlude involving a sprinkler, a coffee machine and a soaked suit. On a quest to find a hotel he once stayed in with his wife, he somehow ends up hovering above a half renovated museum floor hanging on to a statue held by a crane. He awkwardly lands with an iron rod stuck in his head and is left immobilized.
Meanwhile, the museum director is giving a grand opening tour of the place and her and her colleague are displeased at the situation, thinking it will ruin their reputation and the precious artifacts of the museum. Soon enough, masses of people are crowding around Roberto to see what the fuss is about. Journalists and photographers arrive in abundance and he is on every TV channel. He is still conscious and immediately sees the potential profit in his situation, ringing around his marketing contacts to arrange exclusive interviews. Product placement is one source of the ‘humour’, as his agent perches by his paralyzed body holding up bottles of a mojito drink and grinning.
When his wife arrives, she instantly goes in to hug him, putting on too much pressure and he cries out in pain. It’s supposed to be funny, but this happens repeatedly. His wife later stamps her feet in annoyance, near his head. When his goth son arrives wearing large black boots, he does the same and Roberto yelps in the same way. Crowds are chaotically always buzzing around him, making the ground wobble profusely and no one stops it. This was really grating, as the doctor says only once that is the rod moves even slightly and touches another part of his brain he could die instantly. It just wouldn’t happen. True, that’s probably part of the joke, but I wasn’t in on it.
Roberto is irritatingly obsessed with money. He may be dying but all he can talk about is how much is being offered, and how he’s a celebrity now. This is obviously the point, and it’s a lecture in how money and fame can’t bring happiness. Family is what is important, as his wife and kids keep telling him. Isn’t this an obvious point to begin with? Roberto is just a broken record, as is much of the film itself. Dialogue, jokes, the statement it’s trying to make, are all hammered to death, hence why it’s hard to care about him or any of the other characters. Near the end of the film there is a rush of sentimentality, but it’s too generic and clichéd to be moving. Roberto’s kind words about how much he loves his family are also unconvincing as he has uttered so few words about them, except about how he can now pay their tuition fees. As Luck would have It is an all too obvious attempt at critiquing tabloid and television culture, but it can’t decide quite where it wants to be, and ends up in a very compromising position with no spark in sight.