Usually, you going to a heist movie expecting tension, action and a black-and-white resolution – capture or escape. Don’t expect this from Alonso Ruizpalacios’s Museum, loosely based on the real life theft of Mayan antiquities from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City in the 1980s.
Juan (Gael García Bernal) is a younger son in a large, tempestuous and well off family. He’s a constant disappointment to his father, Dr. Nuñez ( Alfredo Castro) and works primarily to pay for his marijuana. He hatches a plan with longtime friend Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris) to break into the museum when it is closed for repairs at Christmas. For two rather hapless students, they pull it off with a certain amount of finesse but all the planning has overlooked one detail; who will buy such recognisable artifacts? As astute and wealthy collector Frank Graves (Simon Russell Beale) points out, they are priceless and also essentially worthless.
In keeping with the slacker nature of Juan and his bumbling offsider Wilson, the film has a languid pace and style, kept entertaining by Bernal’s winsome charm (hard to believe he is 40) and kooky camera work that enhances the gorgeous 80s Mexican backdrop. You get an interesting overview of Mayan history and a gentle critique of the appropriation of cultural and social objects by museums. Wound in there is some patriotic angst, writ large by Dr Nuñez and presented as part of the schism between father and son.
Disappointingly, for a man who has so many female family members, the female characters are paper-thin and largely negative. Juan’s mother shouts and weeps, his sister bitches and we get the most camera attention on a woman when it moves very slowly down the oiled breasts and belly of good-hearted stripper Eugenie (Leticia Brédice).
Overall I was diverted by the story but left feeling a little hollow.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.