Whisky is a word that when said almost forces one to make a smile. And so in this film the only time the main characters smile is when they are getting their picture taken; "one, two, three, Whisky!".
Pablo Stoll and Juan Pablo Rebella's Whisky is a Uruguayan deadpan comedy about a middle aged man Jacobo (Andres Pazos) and woman Marta (Mirella Pascual) who get a chance to break away from their daily boring work in a Montevideo sock factory.
Jacobo gets news that his overbearing brother Herman (Jorge Bolani) is coming for a visit. So that Jacobo can avoid embarrassment for being middle-aged and still single he asks his co-worker Marta if she will pretend to be his wife while his brother stays.
The set up is quite good and as the film carries on it becomes evident that Jacopo and Marta are both very lonely people who would probably be better off if they were together. However, unlike a Hollywood film [or a television program] these two do not magically fall in love with one another. They actually get along like some older couples who have become bored with one another and never communicate.
Herman stays around for four days talking nonstop about nothing much. They all travel to a weekend resort but they don't do much except eat and drink and hang around in the relatively empty resort biding their time until the brother leaves.
Plot aside the strength of Whisky is in the style. This is a very dead pan comedy with a lot of emphasis on glum banality. For those familiar with this style of film it is easy to see that Aki Kaurismäki and Jim Jarmusch are major influences. In fact, the film plays a lot like Stranger Than Paradise with each of the characters now older and changed for this particular plot.
Whisky manages to be both funny and frustrating. Frustaring because it deals not only with unrequited love but unrequited life. Both Jacobo and Marta are completely unable to reach across to each other or to anyone else for that matter and as a result they are the living embodiment of what Thoreau called 'quiet desperation'. And they maintain their stance to the end with only a slight sliver or hope.
The problem I have with Whisky is that it is stylistically formulaic. It becomes distracting knowing that the filmmakers are clearly treading a path made so distinctive and so well by both Jarmusch and Kaurismäki. Other than that the film's strength is in knowing that all of us are a little like Jacobo and Marta. We lie when we don't want to face simple truths about ourselves and we often don't realize that the answers to some of our problems are within arm's reach. In this way the film has an ironic human message that everyone can appreciate.