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Film Review: PROBLEMISTA (2023): Julio Torres Gives Tilda Swinton the Role of Her Career in a Weird, Wild and Zany Offbeat Comedy

Tilda Swinton Julio Torres

Problemista Review

Problemista (2023) Film Review, a movie written and directed by Julio Torres and starring Julio Torres, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Isabella Rossellini, Catalina Saavedra, James Scully, Laith Nakli, Greta Lee, Larry Owens, Kelly McCormack, Eudora Peterson, Greta Titelman and Shakina.

Problemista is the type of movie that could never please everyone and, thankfully, writer/director Julio Torres doesn’t even try to make this picture one that will go down easy with mainstream audiences. Problemista is challenging right from the get-go and is all the better a movie as a result. This film is driven by a lead performance by Tilda Swinton as a character named Elizabeth. This role is over-the-top and ridiculously hilarious, as played by Swinton. Narrated by the incomparable Isabella Rossellini, Problemista has some minor flaws but the always remarkable Swinton is at the top of her game reveling in a performance that potentially ranks as her very best screen work to date.

Set in the competitive world of New York City, Torres stars in the film as Alejandro, an aspiring young toy creator from El Salvador who has received a rejection letter from the company of his dreams– Hasbro. That means Alejandro can’t quit or lose his day job working for a cryogenics company where one of the bosses is Sharon (Kelly McCormack). This company is sponsoring Alejandro but not for long, unfortunately. When the plug of the freezer of a key client, Bobby (the very charismatic RZA) is seen by management loose on the floor, Alejandro plugs it back in but he still gets in trouble with the boss. He ends up losing his job through a series of events.

The cryogenics company is half-baked, at best. Though the company charges quite a bit, they are waiting on potentially life-altering developments to happen so, in the interim, they’re just killing time with their clients hoping for the best. This company is similar to the one that froze Tom Cruise’s character in Vanilla Sky but a whole lot less complicated.

Alejandro is a rather annoying character at times. Although he represents the drive for success and the right of every person to have a chance at a fruitful career, Alejandro has a lot of traits that will drive audiences crazy. He knows a lot about his chosen field of specialization and flaunts that knowledge but his somewhat neurotic behavior and narcissism seems to get the best of the character.

Alejandro comes from a loving family, headed by his inspiring mother Doris (Catalina Saavedra). I know Alejandro means well but there must be easier ways to get your foot in the door of places than through the events this film portrays. The movie suggests that you need to be forceful and take no prisoners to make it in New York City. At one point, Alejandro’s idea of a cell phone-toting Cabbage Patch Kid is stolen, and his payback to a higher-up, while humorous, feels a bit pointed and a bit conniving. That doesn’t mean that Torres hasn’t put 100 percent into playing Alejandro and his efforts are duly noted.

It’s in the rapport between the art peddling wife of Bobby, Elizabeth (Swinton), and Alejandro that the movie finds its successful dramatic center. There is a scene where the two shoot the breeze at a diner and Alejandro orders a salad with no cheese. Elizabeth turns the tables on the waiter in a hilarious moment that is one of the most entertaining scenes in the picture. To reveal more would ruin the fun.

There’s a moment where Elizabeth has accidentally left one of Bobby’s artworks behind while riding on a city sky trolley. Swinton’s overacting here, in particular, is on-point but Swinton pretty much aces her performance here all the way through. Rossellini’s narration is perfect with the usual distinction and sophistication the actress has been known for throughout the years fully intact.

One of the funniest scenes in the picture comes between Alejandro and a Bank of America representative. This moment is pure gold and will have audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter. However, the movie excels in the writing of Swinton’s character who is Alejandro’s last chance at career salvation. There isn’t a lot of suspense as to whether or not Swinton and Alejandro will prevail, but the last moments of the picture have plenty of surprises as the movie skips ahead centuries as people who have been frozen are seen again with hysterical results.

This film could probably never work as a mainstream crowd-pleaser. It’s too sloppy and some of the jokes feel improvised and run thin at times. However, the movie could very likely find a slew of independent movie fans who will enjoy the movie’s quirky sense of humor and Swinton’s performance as she pretty much runs off with the picture.

Problemista is Tilda Swinton’s ticket to at least a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical but she could have the potential to ride the role all the way to the Academy Awards. This picture could resonate with viewers in its portrayal of the hunger to achieve success in the corporate climate of America today. Torres’s character may frustrate the viewer at times but his dreams and aspirations ring true and are thus relatable. Problemista offers a wild, energetic good time as the viewer watches the unpredictable Swinton go through her paces in her terrific, juicy role within the film. It’s recommended viewing.

Rating: 7/10

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