(director/writer/producer: Baltasar Kormákur; screenwriter: from a novel by Hallgrímur Helgason; cinematographer: Peter Steuger; editors: Skule Eriksen/Sigvaldi J. Kárason; music: Damon Albarn/Einar Ørn Benediktsson; cast: Victoria Abril (Lola), Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Hlynur), Baltasar Kormákur (Thröstur), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Marri), Þrúður Vilhjálmsdóttir (Hofi), Eyvindur Erlendsson (Hafsteinn), Hanna Maria Karlsdottir (Berglind); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Thorfinnur Omarsson/Ingvar Thordarson; Menemsha Entertainment; 2000-Iceland/Denmark, in English)

“Everything about this Icelandic sitcom comedy seemed off kilter.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Everything about this Icelandic sitcom comedy seemed off kilter. Sexy Spanish flamenco teacher Lola (Abril) is invited by one of her pupil’s, an older woman named Berglind (Karlsdottir), to stay in her small downtown apartment at the postal code of 101 Reykjavik for Christmas rather than be alone in a hotel. Berglind’s slacker late twentysomething son Hlynur (Guðnason) is a nerdy, unemployed, pub crawler without any ambitions, who is picked on unmercifully by the local pub studs and has an unfulfilling on-and-off sexual relationship with the bitchy rich blonde Hofi (Vilhjálmsdóttir). All Hlynur does is get drunk, smoke hashish, watch porn movies from his satellite at home, and sponge off his kind-hearted Mom. He aims to indefinitely live off of his unemployment benefits. What he shares in common with Mom, is a joy in smoking hashish. The film has many touching Almodovar sentiments expressed throughout, as this slacker comedy tries so hard to be so generous and liberal in spirit.

The crowd-pleasing comedy failed me because I couldn’t connect with the loser hero’s plight or tune into the “family dysfunctional” story without thinking plot device. The scrawny, bespectacled Hlynur’s office worker mom is separated from her boozer husband and has come out of the closet to have a lesbian relationship with the temperamental Lola. This upsets Hlynur because he’s also romantically interested in Lola. While Mom is visiting his granny in the country, he gets drunk during New Year’s Eve and has a wild one-night stand with the also drunk Lola. This might have resulted in her pregnancy. But that’s no problem to Berglind and Lola, as they decide to raise the boy.

101 Reykjavik had no edge, hardly any wit, the characters conversed in a whiny tone and its charm was too cloying for my more tropical taste buds. The humor is of the self-deprecating kind. Hlynur describes Iceland as a place of no insects, no trees, and the only reason people live here is because they were born here. Hlynur thinks he’s living in Siberia. The comedy was also jarred by a clash of styles: Abril’s idea of comedy is loud and in-your-face, while Hlynur’s is one of deadpan expressions. The exchanges between the hot and cold climates failed to catch hold.

Baltasar Kormakur’s feeble directorial debut is based loosely on a novel by Hallgrimur Helgason. Kormakur also plays the part of one of Hlynur’s more rowdy slacker pals. He shows little talent as either an actor or director. The few glimpses of chilly Iceland give the non-Icelander some strange notions about that country, while the musical soundtrack put together by the lead singer of Blur Damon Albarn and the ex-Sugarcubes local singer Einar Ørn is refreshing and the best thing about the pic.

REVIEWED ON 4/19/2003 GRADE: C      https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/