Review: 'The Queen of Spain', Penelope Cruz Is Aggressively Tongue-In-Cheek

The Queen of Spain is the sequel to Fernando Trueba’s 1998 film, The Girl of Your Dreams, and features the return of much of the original cast, including Penelope Cruz as Macarena Granada, who has found success in Hollywood and has returned to Spain 20 years later to star in a blockbuster about Isabella I, the famous queen of Spain. 

If you haven’t seen 1998’s The Girl of Your Dreams, like I hadn’t… this movie will not make a lot of sense to you.I just couldn’t wrap my mind around this movie. Was there a layer of context that is present in Spain’s movies that I was missing? Because I desperately want the ridiculousness of this movie to represent… something?

Ultimately, this movie was really difficult to enjoy because it seems like it is full of throwbacks to the first movie and inside jokes. The movie does not stand alone very well, as there is little to no context for many of the events. (I suspect that a missing layer of humor that may be more familiar to Spanish audiences also contributes to the disoriented feeling I was having while watching.) Let me try to break down what is happening and where I got lost?

Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines), since the events of The Girl of Your Dreams, has survived Mauthausen concentration camp and has been living in France pulling odd jobs. The fact that this character has come from a literal Nazi concentration camp somehow becomes a strange punchline to several jokes in the movie, like how that experience makes the Jewish-American Hollywood folks like him more or how him talking about the traumatic experience really bums out other people. How do these moments come across as so tone deaf, am I missing something?

The movie also pokes needless fun at homosexuality? A gay man and a lesbian woman are married to each other, and they spend much of the movie ogling other people. There is a scene where Gary Jones (Cary Elwes), well… he sexually assaults Julián Torralba (Jorge Sanz) and this is somehow just another joke? After this incident, someone comments that Julián’s acting brought a sense of femininity to his character. Are you serious? In 2017, I don’t understand how a scene like this is played off as comedy. Things may be different in Spain but I just could not stomach these jokes.

My big thing in movies is always character dynamics and they didn’t make any sense in this movie. Blas and Macarena have a romantic past, but when Macarena goes to the labor camp that Blas is at (I am still unclear as to why he’s there exactly), she rebuffs several of his attempts to make a move on him. “What we had is in the past,” she tells him. 20 years is a long time, and Macarena has since been married and divorced and linked to many of Hollywood’s Golden Age actors like Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. But with a little persistence, she gives in? What???

The climax of this movie is the heist to break Blas out of the labor camp, and the movie quickly gets political as we learn that screenwriter Jordan Berman (Mandy Patinkin) is blacklisted in McCarthyist Hollywood and wants to help these anti-Franco plotters. Francisco Franco shows up on set himself at the end of the film, to the ire of Macarena and the varying levels of discomfort of everyone else. (Contextual note: Francisco Franco was the fascist dictator of Spain for almost 40 years.)

This movie just felt all over the place. There were lusty moments with the hunky grip lead, a random musical number in the movie within the movie, two assassination attempts, and Blas making out with no fewer than three women over the course of the movie. I feel like even if I had seen the first movie, this one would still not make a lot of sense to me, and that’s really unfortunate. I was hoping that, as a movie about people making a movie, this would make more of a statement about the movie business, celebrity, how time changes people, or perhaps about the state of US-Spanish relations during this unpopular regime. Maybe it did, but the fact that I couldn’t receive this message is a problem.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5