A middle-aged man loses his job in advertising, gets accosted by a homeless man, stuck in rush hour traffic, and then accidentally falls on an iron rod that impales itself in the back of his head.
This could be his lucky day.
That’s the premise behind “As Luck Would Have it,” out this week on DVD and VOD from IFC Films/Sundance Selects, a pitch-black satire about fame and the media from Spanish writer-director Alex de la Iglesia. The man, Roberto (Jose Mota) was crawling around the site of an ancient Roman theater in Cartagena when he fell onto the rod, piercing his skull. Lying there at center stage, he feels fine, but doctors worry how to extricate him from the rod without killing him.
Pretty soon, Roberto becomes sort of a middle-aged Baby Jessica, as reporters swarm the theater, well-wishers hold up signs and cheer, and agents jockey for the rights to his story. While other movies might have made Roberto a hopeless naif in the center of a well of corruption, “Luck” makes Roberto complicit in his own exploitation; he tries to negotiate a better deal for himself for an exclusive interview, even agrees to hold a six-pack of mojitos for some product placement money. For a guy about to be sucked into the Great Recession, getting stabbed in the head was a windfall. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Salma Hayek is the most famous name in the credits for American audiences, playing Roberto’s doting wife Luisa, who tries to hold the media hordes at bay. She’s also the one truly good person in the film — even the devoted doctor looking after Roberto can’t help but call his wife and ask how he looked on television. Fame corrupts everyone, the movie suggests, and in today’s reality TV-soaked culture, you need to be a celebrity like you need a hole in the head.
Where other filmmakers, particularly Americans, might have checked their swing, de la Iglesia follows through on his dark portrait of our obsessed culture, where every calamity is a new program to watch on 24-hour cable news.