On the surface, "Monkey Business" looks like
another trio-of-bumbling-amateurs caper so common among low-budget
indies these days. But behind the raucous facade,
documentarian-turned-feature helmer Ricardo Carrasco Farfan fashions
a subtle comedy that quietly confounds expectations at every turn.
Well-traveled on the fest circuit, pic has many virtues (including a
standout perf by plug-ugly lead Sergio Hernandez) but fails to press
a sufficient number of "prestige" buttons to gain an arthouse run.
Cable future looks good.
After a long absence, El Negro (Hernandez) returns from Santiago
to his home town to attend his mother's funeral. Negro, a dour
little guy, seems curiously unaffected by his mother's passing, and
markedly ill-at-ease with all the effusive tears and expressions of
It's hard to know whether Negro is a two-bit criminal on the lam
or some Chilean version of Camus' "Stranger," wracked with
existential angst. In truth Negro fancies himself a budding
When, after the funeral, a couple of childhood friends pitch him
a business deal which involves buying seafood on the coast and
selling it locally for Holy Week, he's persuaded to invest his small
nest egg and smaller stock of financial wisdom in the venture.
The threesome--Negro, the skinny excitable Chico Mario (Luis
Dubo) and the fat, genial Guaton Molina (Emilio Garcia)-- sets out
in Molina's dilapidated truck which, predictably, breaks down a few
hours out of the village. Indeed, the whole venture proceeds via
strict adherence to Murphy's law.
However, almost imperceptibly, each stage in their slide to
disaster turns out to be if not precisely a blessing in disguise, at
least a step in the right direction. The truck breaks down near the
house of a local mechanic -- a lovely divorcee (Carmen Disa
Gutierrez) to whom Negro is strongly attracted. At every point in
the proceedings, things threaten to go bad, not least among them the
unrefrigerated fish. Carrasco keeps setting up a cynical payoff that
both the urbanite Negro and his rural compadres secretly expect to
doom their endeavors, only to have people matter-of-factly hold up
their end of the social contract.
Pic never tips its sociopolitical hand with any humanistic
speechifying or moral underlining. Perhaps more than anything else,
it's the road trip through the dusty, magnificent Chilean
countryside, casually limned by Jose Luis Arredondo's arresting
lensing, that measures the interior distance that Negro