It is not often that we come across a decent film on friendships sans drama coming out of Mexico. This Latino industry worldwide is known for its telenovela style of storytelling and filmmaking, which turns over the top and preposterous in no time. Thankfully, Maquíllame Otra Vez, loosely translated to Making it Up, is a Mexican movie written and directed by Guillermo Calderón that is broadly about female friendships, sisterhood, and how just a simple act of love and caring is what matters, and there need not be a spectacle to showcase that.
The plot of this one-hour, forty-minute film is simple. There is a small group of very talented makeup artists who are out of work and are desperately looking for a job. They come across another friend who seems to have contacts, but she is battling her demons and is trying very hard to overcome it. Maneuvering between odd jobs, retaining friendships, and keeping their interests going in their field of choice is what drives them daily. But will their friendship be affected by certain events, or will it be easy for them to get over setbacks in the form of losing clients?
The story by Guillermo Calderón is straightforward from the beginning, and the narrative uses a linear path instead of juggling between multiple subplots. The movie begins with one of their friends, Alex, being in the asylum and Ana going to meet her. This showcases the importance of mental health issues being talked about subtly and why there must be a discussion on them in all kinds of mainstream cinema. It is interesting to watch how the inclusion of mental health and the stigma added into the screenplay makes it seem like something that our friend or an acquaintance is going through, and the viewers would easily feel sympathetic to the character and not judge them. This is exactly the brilliant part of the screenplay. The writer in this story does not judge anyone, as the woman comes across people who have had their journey so far, and they are proud to have been working hard on themselves.
The subtitles on Netflix are tricky because it seems they were not translated well for non-Spanish speakers, and that will surely hamper your viewing experience. Because of the subtitles alone, the screenplay and the story do come across as vague about what is happening between these friends and what they are fretting about. Netflix will have to up its subtitle game when it releases Latin films on its platforms. The idea is to introduce this film to the world, and if the basic work of converting the emotion the right way in English is not done properly, the movie, its story, and the humor will lose their essence. A lot of the meaning would be lost in translation. The story takes time to pick up in this case, and it seems alright because, slowly, we understand the relationship between the characters and what they mean to each other as well.
Making it Up is one of the few films in recent times that came close to portraying female friendships in a progressive manner because there is no catfighting, gossiping, or plotting against each other. It is working women trying to keep their heads up, help their fellow friends with jobs, and recover from mental health issues. There is nobody who is victimized in this story. All of them come forward to help their friend deal with her issues and find a solution, and once she is fine, they make her part of their group in no time. There is also a subplot regarding how a slightly disabled bride, Maria, is treated by her fiancé’s parents. Though it was not discussed in detail, the mention of and normalization of a conversation on disability makes the movie endearing and empathetic. Despite many of these topics being touched upon, there was a lack of emotion that was required to make this movie leave you with a smile. The screenplay lacked an extra dose of positivity despite all the uncertainty that the women were facing. The narrative could have been slightly more complex than a straightforward film to better understand the intricacies of all the characters in Making it Up. Only if the ending was not this ambiguous, but again, this is the story of a bunch of women who continue to remain together and grow as friends. In that case, a vague climax makes sense. This movie reminded me of the 2022 Malayalam film Dear Friend.
The cinematography by Sergio Armstrong is exquisite because the framing of the film is simple, but it still says so much about all the female leads in Making it Up. There are single-frame shots of all the friends being shown repeatedly with their makeup on, showcasing what they are up to in their lives, and they seem to be content at that point. The symbolism works well, thanks to the great camerawork. The editing done by Andrea Chignoli is commendable. The entire makeup department must be given accolades for showcasing some brilliant work that at no point comes across as loud. For a movie based on the lives of makeup artists, this department did not disappoint at all. The production design department and the costume department have also put tremendous effort into making this movie come across as colorful, even though the subject at hand is quite the opposite.
The performances of all the leads are commendable, even though a few of them do come across as amateur actors, but the treatment of their characters makes their performances memorable. The doubts about their future, the sisterhood, and the love they share come across in the right manner because of the actresses. Making it Up as a whole works despite its flaws because of the sincerity with which this move was made and presented. Give Making it Up a watch. It is short and sweet.