Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)—an almost slapstick story about several women who are, well, on the verge of nervous breakdowns (some are perhaps past the verge)—is probably the filmmaker’s best-liked, most accessible and most popular film. When you consider the dark material underneath the madcap antics that’s rather surprising, but then surprise is exactly what one expects from Almodóvar. And with this wild tale of a suicidal (and possibly homicidal) woman (Carmen Maura) waiting desperately for a phone call from her ex-lover (Fernando Guilleri), while having to hide her best friend (Maria Barranco) from the police and show her apartment to the son (Antonio Banderas) of her ex, the surprises are nonstop.
The film is in familiar Almodóvar territory, which is to say that it’s essentially a ramped-up soap opera played for absurdity—but one where you still end up with an emotional investment in the characters. The difference here is that it plays everything for laughs—including the melodrama—and at breakneck speed. The material is dark—suicide, insanity, potential murder, betrayal and even some terrorism—but it’s not played that way. Richly comic, beautifully colorful, endlessly stylish (with just the right amount of bad taste), it’s a movie that perhaps benefits from knowing as little as possible about the exact events it contains. Because of this, I’m going to leave it to you to discover its delights the best way possible—by going to see it.