Tribeca Film Festival 2018: Dry Martina Is a Bewildering yet Engaging Star Vehicle

Despite the efforts of its cast, especially leading actress Antonella Costa, Dry Martina still succumbs to its complicated storytelling.
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In the opening scene of Dry Martina, our main character is performing at a concert and about midway through her performance, she immediately takes off her wig and steps out of the stage. The minute she stops performing, we see her turn into a different, more troubled person. That small moment is an indication of what Dry Martina is about. It is a character study about a woman on the verge of self-destruction that is successfully anchored by its leading actress even though the film itself is rather, shall I say, slightly dry.

Martina (Antonella Costa) is a former pop star from Argentina who has fallen from grace. Her career has floundered, she lives alone, and the only person who contacts her nowadays is her manager. But the mundanity in her life becomes broken by the sudden arrival of a fan named Fran (Geraldine Neary). Even though Fran claims to be her long-lost biological sister, it is Fran’s boyfriend Cesar (Pedro Campos) who captures Martina’s attention and whose charm motivates her to fly to Chile to pursue him.

Martina is not exactly the easiest person to root for. She’s rather thorny and tends to make selfish decisions. Yet, Antonella Costa still manages to make her watchable through the use of her sly comical chops and brittle vulnerability. Matching her tit for tat is Pedro Campos as Cesar, Martina’s younger lover who sweeps her off her feet but still yearns for their relationship to go beyond physical intimacy. Geraldine Neary manages to impress as well, portraying Fran in such an earnest manner that makes Martina’s emotional abandonment of her rather heartbreaking.

As terrific as the main acting trio is, though, the rest of the film can’t seem to measure up to them. Despite the film being paced at 90 minutes, it tends to feel longer than it actually is. Also, the story, or Martina’s personal arc in particular, tends to be at war with itself. Initially, Martina dislikes when people play old songs of hers because they remind her of the loss of her glory days. But as the film progresses, she grows more appreciative when she hears her songs. Meanwhile, it becomes uncertain towards the end whether she becomes more appreciative of those that try to become close with her. So even though Martina undergoes an arc of some sort, she never seems to undergo a full transition. To be fair, though, it is a character study which means one can observe Martina’s ongoing behavior and determine whether or not they feel her transition is complete. One can even make the conclusion that not every character needs to make a full transition. It is possible that they can only go through a change of some sort by the end.

In conclusion, Dry Martina features splendid performances by its acting trio and is mainly worth a watch just for them. The film may not be a song that everyone can dance to but it still has some noteworthy lyrics.

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