The Empty Hours (2013)

The proliferation of the MILF and Cougar figures, if anything, can be understood as man’s misguided attempt at optimal ass. Here’s how. The notion that sexual prime seldom meets youthful exuberance that long lends elusiveness to the ideal balance. Bloom and maturity are concurrent but for a brief time, at about the mid-thirties. This is arbitrary, of course. But we can easily establish that MILF has stretch marks and the Cougar consciously looks for younger prey. So for all their hype, the fetishized older female coined so eloquently in porn and pickup circuits are, sadly, on the downswing.

Meet realtor Miranda (Adriana Paz). It is in this delicate point that she intersects the physiological metrics in perpetual clash; Libido, and the wisdom to wield its powers effectively. Unlike those niche archetypes, Miranda can turn younger and older heads just as easily. Currently she beds an older, married lover (Mario) whom she meets at the Palma Real, a sleazy by-the-hour seaside joint in Veracruz. According to etymology, that’s Aztec for “women can pay the tab, too,” since she arrives first and gets stood up on occasion. But she waits since she’s a stranger in town.

Sebastian, the owner’s nephew, covers for his uncle while away for treatment. Eventually he falls into similar idleness, with Miranda increasingly captivating his imagination. Except! Why would she give him the time of day? He’s just out of high school and stands glaringly shorter. The idea that he runs the place is an amusing curiosity for her, serving as the springboard for early condescension.

emptyhours2sebastian

Between his uncle’s unforeseeable return and delinquent and unreliable staff, Sebastian slacks off when the upkeep begins to overwhelm him and suddenly, the two strike up an eventual conversation. Amid structure-less work and general boredom, the curious small talk while she waits, builds in its probing and a casual friendship forms between the two. This happens fluidly in a movie that employs a couple of abrupt jumps but there’s an authenticity to how their acquaintance makes its transition from unlikely to playful banter.

And before you realize it an ambiguous layer of seduction is revealed once they spill the beans on their private affairs, excuse the pun. This will sound racist but I was expecting more food or dinner scenes. There is one dancing scene to assure you this still is Mexico, so all is well. Don’t look at me, sometimes you reinforce other people’s stereotypes of yourself.

And speaking of archetypes, there are no fiery Latinas and Sebastian is far from the customary macho chauvinist from south of the border. Though first seen at work, it is her first time at the motel where the professional facade is shed. This sequence molds the viewer’s perception of her, and is skilfully set up. Miranda and Mario—unknowingly—approach an out-of-order room and start getting it on in the driveway. It has a drape to pull across to signal the room is occupied. When told to rent a different room, Miranda and her boyfriend are heard off-screen whispering whether to do it in the driveway. It’s her idea. And she mocks his lack of adventure for not going along.

Okay maybe she is fiery but at least her partner isn’t a Latin lover type. Hers was a playful comment and hardly shows a lascivious personality as much as a yearning for change. Next, it cuts to them post coitus except this is no ordinary pillow talk. She wants to see him more now that they found a nicer place and he weasels out of more commitment to an extramarital relationship. The irony.

And just as the motel is not deluding itself, as it’s only a notch above a bordello, Miranda is similarly realistic in her expectations of the affair. This much she confides in Sebastian. This occurs midway through and with their paths merging, it is no longer clear whose lane Miranda will veer into next. Sebastian has his dubious moment, or two, that serve as equivalent to Miranda’s. In one he gropes himself outside a door to the sound of lovers (Miranda?) fucking in one of the rooms. In another he browses Miranda’s selfies—a catalog of naval gazing of squished tits and inflated cleavage—after she loses her phone at the motel. But to absolve him of the entire brunt of this intrusive move, they’d been out the night before and Miranda was too drunk to drive home and ended up staying at one of the rooms. “Blame it on boredom,” is the implied ethos.

emptyhours1miranda

The film eschews cliché trappings of romance in favor of slow grind that may or may not yield a universal male fantasy. A love triangle is not the story, and Miranda is not merely looking for a schlong to rebound from nor to spite with. Quite the opposite. Mario is phased out of the camera’s focus gradually with an accidental hook-up between the two leads inching closer to a possibility which could as easily not arrive.

In equal measure, it is a minimalist ode to summertime lulls, spontaneity, and sexual discovery. The Empty Hours is not unlike Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien, though they’re aesthetic opposites. But the road movie with two-way lackeys attempting to woo an older woman, Maribel Verdu, is echoed in Aaron Fernandez second full feature. There’s a beach that the Geminis of Jizz aren’t sure of its existence. Boca del something. Sebastian and Miranda debate whether a fading blot of paint in the ceiling is a mermaid or an iguana after they finally fuck, and I can’t help but find the myth in every piece of work from a legend-propagating culture like the former Spanish colonies here. The siren call is reversed in both films though in the latter this will go down in the great moments of hook-up history Hall of Fame as a first ballot entry. Or maybe I’m giving this film more esoteric credit than is its due. Maybe I just want to see Miranda and Maribel scissoring in my bathtub and rub baby oil on each other.

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