Official Competition review | It’s Penelope Cruz’s world and we just live in it

Led by a strong trio of performances, Official Competition is a sharp satire about the film industry. It’s also a hoot.

penelope cruz official competition


The film industry loves films about itself, Hollywood especially. The problem is that they tend to be quite self-congratulatory and quite frankly, very far up their own metaphorical arse. But not Official Competition. Directed by Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn, Official Competition is a biting satire, not afraid to reveal just how ridiculous the very industry the film exists in is. 

A wealthy businessman is about to celebrate his 80th birthday and has a grand idea; he should produce a film. Not just any film, but a really good film, adapted from a hit book, starring famous actors and directed by a Cannes sensation, Lola Cuevas (Penelope Cruz).

So, work begins on the film; Iván Torres and Félix Rivero are cast in the lead roles, but their different methods, combined with Lola’s strange directorial ways, cause severe clashes in rehearsal. 

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For a film with such a simple premise, Official Competition nails it. And by it, I mean everything. It’s not without its faults, but those faults are easy to overlook when you’re having such a good time with a film. One of the film’s best scenes features Lola asking the two men, who are constantly bickering and trying to one-up each other, to bring their award statues to rehearsal, only to wrap the two men up in cling film and then proceed to destroy said awards in front of their eyes as they desperately beg her to stop. 

Official Competition is really an actors’ film. Cruz leads the pack and does a magnificent job at portraying such a difficult, visionary artist, who’s often an arsehole just because she can and no one will stop her. She’s constantly magnetic and seemingly gives the performance her everything. It’s not a performance that will be remembered by the masses, simply because it’s not tragic and she doesn’t die by the end of cancer or a brain tumour, but it’s still one of Cruz’s finest turns to date. 

This isn’t to say that Banderas or Martínez are any worse. Their sizzling chemistry is the source of many gags and it’s a joy to watch the actors bounce off each other. Banderas especially is having a giggle with his humpty-dumpty of a character. 

But as stated before, there are flaws. The film starts repeating jokes and often runs around in circles with its narrative. The script, penned by Mariano Cohn, Andrés Duprat and Gastón Duprat, never finds the next level it needs to ascend to. But the dialogue is exemplary, sharp and witty without ever being too on the nose and talking down to the audience. 

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All in all, Official Competition is a fun and mature look at the film industry, or more specifically, the individuals within it and their motives. It fully exposes the egos, the ridiculous methods and vicious rivalries which we’re often only privy to through tabloids. Here, they’re all explored and exhibited for our pleasure. Above everything, Official Competition is an entertaining watch, but also a fiercely intelligent one. 

OFFICIAL COMPETITION will be released in cinemas and exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema on 26 August 2022

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