Problemista (2024) Review

By Allison Rose   X Formly Known as Twitter
3 Min Read

Swinton shines in a new light, brilliantly showcasing a facet of her talent never seen before.

Problemista (2024) Review
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The word problemista translated to English is problemist and, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means one that specializes in studying or composing problems. especially: a composer or solver of chess problems. That definition perfectly describes Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton; Michael Clayton), an art critic who is trying to sell her late husband's paintings to keep his cancer-ridden body cryogenically frozen.  She is loud, crass and an all-around pain in the ass but somehow manages to get people to do what she wants.  Alejandro (Julio Torres; Los Espookys) becomes one of those people and finds his life becoming increasingly more complicated by the day.

Alejandro is an assistant at the cryogenic center watching over Elizabeth's husband's, Bobby (RZA; Repo Men), body.  However, when he gets fired, he has 30 days to find another job or revoke his work visa.  Elizabeth, looking for an assistant, tells Alejandro that if he can help her, she will sponsor him.  Alejandro then spends the next 25+ days doing all kinds of work for Elizabeth, who, desperate for money, is obsessed with getting a showing for Bobby's "egg" painting series in hopes of selling them to raise the money to keep his body frozen.  While Alejandro learns a lot about how to get what he wants out of life, he doesn't expect the outcome he is ultimately faced with.

Torres, who was once a writer for Saturday Night Live, puts together a wonderful yet bizarre script.  He purposely has Alejandro speaking in a way that reveals that while he has a grasp of the English Language, he doesn't always get the terminology.  The script also has Elizabeth going off on well-thought-out rants that make one wonder if they were written that way or if Swinton improvised.  Either way, they are fantastic and make Elizabeth seem off her rocker and completely sane all at once.  Torres portrays Alejandro as a socially awkward, unsure individual which serves to add to the absurdity of his character's demeanor.  Together Swinton and Torres are the perfect team for this unusual tale.  

The technical crew is also terrific, especially the set and costume designers, Kendall Anderson (Uncut Gems) and Catherine George (Garden State), respectively.  They get the quirkiness Torres was going for which can easily be seen in the wardrobe choices and set dressings, especially those of Elizabeth.  Since Torres also directed the film, and since it is semi-autobiographical, one can't help but wonder just how messed up Torres is in real life.

As weird as Problemista is, there are underlying themes behind it that make the audience hopeful about Alejandro's future. And as unfair and unusual as the plot may be there is some truth behind immigrants who are in the country on a work visa and how "the system" works against those who were not born in the country.  Regardless of one's views on immigrants and the inner workings of the US government, one can't deny after watching this film that there is a need for change. 

Meanwhile, Swinton is brilliant, offering a whole new side of her we haven't previously.  Her rants are incredibly well organized and thought out (probably due to the great script) and her over-the-top characterization simply seems to work, especially in contrast with Alejandro's even-keeled demeanor.

The bizarre nature of the plot makes the topics examined in the movie more palpable, yet one will still walk out of the film thinking, "What was that!?!" and dissecting the film scene by scene.  Years from now I'm sure film critics will fondly remember Problemista and use it as an example of the sublime but effective filmmaking of this decade.

Grade: B+

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For more information about Problemista visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Allison Rose please click here.

Problemista images are courtesy of A24. All Rights Reserved.

FlickDirect, Allison   Rose

Allison Rose, a Senior Correspondent and Critic at FlickDirect, is a dynamic presence in the entertainment industry with a communications degree from Hofstra University. She brings her film expertise to KRMS News/Talk 97.5 FM and broadcast television, and is recognized as a Tomatometer-Approved Critic. Her role as an adept event moderator in various entertainment industry forums underscores her versatility. Her affiliations with SEFCA, the Florida Film Critics Circle, and the Online Film Critics Society highlight her as an influential figure in film criticism and media.


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