Érica Rivas as Romina
Photo by Javier Juliá, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
2015, 122 minutes
Rated R for violence, language, and brief sexuality
Review by Joshua Handler
Wild Tales consists of six stories of revenge, all violent in some way or other. The first tale is about a highly unusual plane ride; the second is about a woman who must serve an evil loan shark at her restaurant; the third, about a man who irritates a "redneck" while on the road; the fourth, about a discontented bomb technician who is driven mad by the governmental bureaucracy; the fifth, about a wealthy man trying to find a way to cover up for his son who accidentally killed a pregnant woman while driving drunk; and the sixth is about a bride who makes a very disheartening discovery at her own wedding.
A more apt title for Wild Tales would have been, Karma's a Bitch. While the six stories aren't narratively connected, they are thematically connected. In every story, karma comes back to haunt the characters. The film warns its audience to be careful what they do. Think before you act.
As mentioned, every story in Wild Tales is wonderful, but my personal favorite was either "Bombita (Little Bomb)" (the fourth story) or "Hasta que el muerte nos separe (Until Death Do Us Part)" (the final story). These are two of the sharpest stories, pushing their respective premises to the limit for maximum impact. "Bombita" is a scathing piece of social commentary that takes on the Argentinean bureaucracy, which, according to the film, is trying to take money from its citizens any chance it can. Szifron's commentary is to the point, savage, and frequently very funny. "Hasta que el muerte nos separe" certainly has some social commentary, but it's more a marvel of storytelling than anything else. In 20-25 minutes, Szifron crafts a consistently escalating, satisfying, and finally moving story of a wedding gone horribly wrong. The dialogue is witty and the performances, Érica Riva's in particular, are wonderfully unhinged.
Overall, Wild Tales is an imaginative, fast-paced film with a nasty bite. A complete crowd-pleaser, this is the antithesis of the typical "Best Foreign Language Film Oscar-nominee". With the dark Ida, Tangerines, Leviathan, and Timbuktu as the other four nominees this year, it's refreshing to see that the Academy selection committee had enough of a sense of humor to nominate an intelligent (and frequently dirty) comedy like Wild Tales. It's also almost a guarantee that audiences will react well to this film. When each story is this captivating and ends with such a satisfying bang, it's hard to not fall for these wild tales.