A rambling, 1950s-set comedy positioned at the intersection of the film world and left-wing politics, The Queen of Spain suggests a Spanish analogue to Hail, Caesar! Like Joel and Ethan Coen’s film, Fernando Trueba’s latest revolves around the making of an eponymously titled historical epic, which allows for numerous gags about film production in Hollywood’s Golden Age, touching on everything from flubbed takes to actors’ sex lives to the political ramifications of historical representation. Though calmer and more straightforwardly plotted than the Coens’ spastic comedy, The Queen of Spain paradoxically feels even more disjointed, a pleasant but inert collection of scenes and incidents that never coheres into a unified whole.
A sequel to Trueba’s The Girl of Your Dreams, The Queen of Spain opens with director Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines) returning to his native Spain years after he was thought to have died in a Nazi concentration camp. Subsequent to his reconnecting with his filmmaking friends, Blas is hired onto a lavish Spanish-American co-production about the life of Queen Isabella I, a topic chosen to appeal to Francisco Franco, Spain’s fascist leader. Isabella is to be played by Blas’s estranged ex-wife, Macarena Granada (Penelope Cruz), a Hollywood starlet unaware that he’s still alive. But before Macarena arrives in Spain for the shoot, Blas is picked up by Franco’s thugs and thrown in a prison labor camp. When she discovers this, she and her fellow cast and crew hatch a plan to break him out and transport him to safety in France.
It’s confounding that writer-director Fernando Trueba fails to probe the film’s political implications.
Trueba displays an obvious fondness for classical Hollywood filmmaking, particularly the movies produced by Samuel Bronston at Madrid’s Chamartin Studios, which include Anthony Mann’s El Cid and Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings. But while the director lovingly recreates some old-school…