'Extraterrestrial' Review: Layered Lies, Laughs And An Alien Invasion By Nacho Vigalondo [Fantastic Fest 2011]

Buying a ticket to see a film called Extraterrestrial brings with it a lofty set of expectations. You expect sci-fi, you expect action and most of all you expect to see aliens. Nacho Vigalondo's second feature film says screw that. His Extraterrestrial has an alien invasion in it but it's there only to put a new spin on the romantic comedy, a spin only the man behind Timecrimes could create. Incredibly, Extraterrestrial feels almost as layered as that film, but instead of multiple levels of time-travel, this features multiple levels of lies, laughs and love. It's a wonderful, almost screwball, comedy that does pretty much everything right.

Extraterrestrial begins with Julio (Julián Villagrán) waking up with little memory of what we can only assume was a wild night of drinking and fornicating. He's in the apartment of the lovely Julia (Michelle Jenner) and neither have much idea of what happened or what to do next. What is apparent, though, is that the streets are empty, the phones aren't working, and there's a giant spaceship covering their city.

Parallels to Independence Day were probably to throw the audience off the scent. The ships are very similar to those in Roland Emmerich's 1996 blockbuster but all comparisons stop there. Instead of worrying about any aliens, Julio is more worried about a major crush he's developing on Julia. The two bicker, banter, and things start to get even more wild when Julia's creepy, jealous neighbor Angel (Carlos Areces) stops by as well as her long-time boyfriend Carlos (Raúl Cimas). Julio and Julia know they have some secrets to keep and each begins to pile lies on top of lies to keep them. If some of those lies just happen to deal with the fact there's an alien spaceship outside, then it makes it all the more amusing.

Vigalondo's pitch-perfect dialogue, logic and ability to make the dumbest thing seem logical is what sings throughout Extraterrestrial. Most of the time, the aliens don't even matter, it's all about how everyone in one apartment can live with each other when they're all in love with the same woman. The details and situations this creates surprise from scene to scene and the script actually takes the audience into each character's reactions to those situations to show why it might make sense for one, but no sense to another. And throughout all of this, Extraterrestrial remains constantly funny and smart.

The one thing it doesn't do like most romantic comedies is wear its heart on its sleeve. That's usually a good thing but a little cheesy romance would have done this movie good. There's an attempt, but it feels a little sterile. Still, one minor slip up in a film this charming and rewarding is understandable. After all, Extraterrestrial is only Nacho Vigalando's sophomore effort. There's much more to come.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10