Problemista review – quirky hipster comedy lets Tilda Swinton go for the laughs

Estimated read time 2 min read

An explosion of pass-agg hipster quirkiness is what’s offered here, an everything-everywhere-all-at-onceuniverse of cutesy vulnerability and pseudo-childlike ersatz charm. Salvadorian-American comic and SNL alumnus Julio Torres, 37, writes, directs, co-produces and stars as Alejandro, an immigrant Salvadorian kid in the US, desperately trying to keep his visa and follow his dream of being a toy designer.

Incarnating a kind of offbeat creativity, gentle and innocent Alejandro walks with a weird marionette-bobbing motion and wears his backpack while indoors. His life changes when he gets a sort-of assistant job to the imperious and impossibly demanding Elizabeth (Tilda Swinton), whose artist husband, Bobby (RZA), has just submitted to cryogenic freezing, leaving her with the job of guarding his legacy and curating his first quasi-posthumous solo show.

Swinton almost – but not quite – rescues this film from being insufferable as she gives a full-on comedy performance of the sort she isn’t always allowed to do. It’s a bit like her various turns for Wes Anderson (whose influence here is detectable in the droll guest-star narrative voiceover from Isabella Rossellini) and not unlike her bullying Brit magazine editor in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck.

So Torres and Swinton go into Driving Miss Daisy mode; Elizabeth’s high-handed and obstreperous manner is grating, but she does teach saintly and submissive Alejandro that he will have to stand up for himself one day. It’s full of implausible cod-adorable happy-sad touches, the filmic equivalent of a decaf oat latte with a sprinkling of vegan gummy bears.


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