Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Directed by: Pedro Pablo Ibarra
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated 3 out of 5 stars
“Pulling Strings” is a movie about crossing borders. Though a lightweight film, director Pedro Pablo Ibarra’s bilingual romantic comedy offers a poignant commentary on what can happen when cultures collide. The movie’s deft romantic themes and slapstick comedic moments are likely to charm both English and Spanish speakers. In addition, the lively mariachi serenades throughout the film make “Pulling Strings” a musical treat.
Alejandro (Jaime Camil) is trying his best as a single dad. A talented mariachi singer, Alejandro once had big dreams. After losing his wife, however, Alejandro has put his dreams on the back burner. He’s now focused on taking care of his young daughter (Renata Ybarra). Single parenthood is taking a toll on Alejandro. Deciding that his daughter, Maria, would be better off with her grandparents in the United States, the former mariachi star seeks a visa. His quest hits a roadblock, however. Alejandro has to deal with the unforgiving Rachel (Laura Ramsey), a no-nonsense embassy worker who rapidly decides to deny Alejandro his visa, throwing his entire future into upheaval.
As fate would have it, Rachel and Alejandro have not seen the last of each other. Rachel is leaving Mexico City for an exciting assignment in London. Her coworkers want to send Rachel off in style. They hire a mariachi band as live entertainment during Rachel’s big farewell party. After Alejandro recognizes the guest of honor as the embassy worker who denied his visa, the wheels in his head start turning.
In a celebratory mood, Rachel has one drink too many. After the party ends, Alejandro spots the young woman asleep and vulnerable at a bus stop. This is when Alejandro realizes he has a rare chance to do something kind and something self-serving at the same time. He valiantly rescues Rachel, bringing her to the safety of his home.
When Rachel wakes up, she realizes that things have gone awry. Her boss (Tom Arnold) gave her the responsibility of caring for a highly classified laptop, and Rachel looks for the laptop in vain. Alejandro joins her in the search, thinking she might change her mind about the visa if he can do her a huge favor. What Rachel doesn’t realize is that Alejandro may already know the location of the laptop, and what neither Rachel nor Alejandro realize is that their wild goose chase will lead them straight to romance.
In the grand tradition of screwball comedies, “Pulling Strings” makes use of lots of comic misunderstandings and purposeful deceptions. Sometimes, these plot points can feel contrived or tedious. The storyline offers some suspense as audiences wait to find out whether Rachel will realize Alejandro’s ruse. Still, there aren’t many new and fresh surprises when it comes to the plot. Most fans of the romantic comedy genre will see the ending coming a mile away.
“Pulling Strings” does have plenty of strong points, however. Ibarra makes good use of the film’s bilingual aspects. Although English subtitles keep things clear for the audience, not every character speaks both languages. This leads to some funny misunderstandings, putting an international twist on the typical romantic comedy. In addition, the film truly honors its beautiful and vibrant setting. Mexico City seems downright romantic and charming. As Alejandro and Rachel search fruitlessly for the missing laptop, they visit many landmarks, giving audiences the pleasure of viewing a beautiful backdrop. Supporting actors Stockard Channing and Omar Chaparro provide comic relief. Chaparro, as Alejandro’s irrepressible friend, is especially funny.
Earlier in 2013’s movie lineup, “Instructions Not Included” proved that US audiences could truly embrace a Spanish-language film. “Pulling Strings” continues to improve the cinematic outlook for Mexican directors and stars. It’s not hard to imagine Camil becoming a box office draw. His easy charm is on full display in Ibarra’s vibrant romantic comedy. Alejandro could come across as manipulative, but his desire to help his daughter gives him realistic motivation. Camil’s chemistry as a leading man really helps the movie’s predictable plot move forward at a steady clip. Thanks to the lovable, relatable characters, audiences are apt be willing to overlook the film’s predictable plot points and other flaws.
Ultimately, “Pulling Strings” is a fun and enjoyable contribution to the world of bilingual films. The love story is just funny enough to avoid being too sappy. Camil is believable as a struggling mariachi star, especially when he shows off his amazing singing voice. Hopefully, audiences will see more movies from Camil and Ibarra. This playful and charming romantic comedy proves that both the actor and the director have a lot to offer.
Watch Laura Ramsey and Jaime Camil in the trailer for “Pulling Strings.”