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I accidentally watched Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín's new feature (his first since Jackie) on a double billing with Showgirls last Friday. I already had plans to watch Paul Verhoeven's legendary 1997 NC-17 sleaze-fest with my weekly bad movie group, but then I found out MUBI was streaming Larraín's Ema free for one day only. Being a staunch member of the Natalie Portman Should Have Won the Oscar for Jackie club, I reorganized my entire evening around it.
It did not disappoint. This movie has everything: marital spats, flamethrowers, gay stuff, Gael García Bernal. If I was being glib, I would say it was like if Marriage Story and Basic Instinct melted into a ROSALÍA music video. Briefly: it centers on Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo), a young dancer whose marriage to Bernal's Gastón begins crumbling after their adopted son causes a horrific accident. Protective services steps in, and Ema embarks on a twisted maternal tirade whose precise insanity only clicks in the final frames—in the meantime, we get reggaeton dance sequences, intoxicating sex scenes, gorgeous sweeps of urban Santiago, and a dazling 100 minutes of Larraín's signature woozy, fragmented storytelling.
Aside from being my favorite film of the year so far (be warned, it starts slow before spiraling into something so balls-to-the-wall crazy that you would have to be dead to resist), it's a weirdly resonant A-side to Showgirls. Both center dance in a Grand Thesis About Gender (though only Ema's succeeds) and try to wring something sad out of neon-drenched excess. Not sure when it will be widely available again, but when it is, pencil it in. —Conner Reed, Arts & Culture Editor