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In WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, Pedro Almodovar has written and directed an incisive, fast-paced romp with the serious theme of obsessive love. The film's cascade of missed connections and riotous coincidences is triggered when Ivan (Fernando Guillen) abruptly abandons his
longtime lover, Pepa (Carmen Maura). Finding herself pregnant, Pepa frantically tries to track down the elusive Ivan. In the course of her search she discovers some of his secrets, including Lucia (Julieta Serrano), by whom he has fathered a now-grown son. Pepa, distraught and contemplating
suicide, prepares a batch of gazpacho laced with enough barbiturates to put a small town into coma and puts her apartment up for rent--after which people start showing up in waves. The pitcher of gazpacho becomes the key to some strange and unexpected events, culminating in a loopy car chase.
Almodovar, who was an obscure telephone company employee just six years earlier, consolidates his reputation as a cult moviemaker with this one. He is great at inventing simple but stunning visual jokes and staging running gags. Further, he brings the best out of his uniformly skillful cast, in
particular Carmen Maura. An Almodovar regular and consummate farceur, Maura can also play the pathos of the role with moving veracity. The film is flushed with bright light and cartoon hues, nicely accenting the fast-paced stew of incidents.