2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Initials SG’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

Initials S.G.
Diego Peretti in “Initials S.G.” (Photo by Roman Kasseroller)

“Initials SG” (“Iniciales SG”)

Directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia

Spanish with subtitles

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

The trials and tribulations of a struggling actor have been the subject of classic Oscar-winning movies, ranging from the 1937 drama “A Star Is Born” to the 1982 comedy “Tootsie” to the 2016 musical “La La Land.” The dark comedy “Initials SG” (“Iniciales SG”) is not going to be an Oscar-winning classic, but it’s a compelling movie about the seedy underbelly of the acting profession far outside of the United States—in this case: Buenos Aires, Argentina. In “Initials SG,” Diego Peretti plays Sergio Garces, a down-on-his-luck, middle-aged actor who still holds on to the dream of achieving major stardom. Years before, Sergio recorded a long-forgotten album of Serge Gainsbourg cover songs in a misguided bid for fame. The title of the movie is a nod to Sergio Garces and Serge Gainsbourg having the same initials.

Sergio—who is single and lives alone—is the type of actor whose career was once promising, but has in recent years been reduced to mostly bit parts as an extra or voiceover roles, and he’s not above making adult films to help pay the bills. After being sentenced to anger management and probation for a fight where he pushed someone out of a window, he gets into a bike accident that injures his nose. The injury negatively affects his health and immediate job prospects.

In the midst of this personal crisis, Sergio meets a visiting American sales agent named Jane (played by Julianne Nicholson) by chance at a bar. She’s more attracted to him than he is attracted to her, and they eventually become lovers after Sergio misses a chance to hook up with a younger woman he’s been lusting after for a while. Sergio’s ego also gets a temporary boost when he finds out that he’s going to honored at a film festival.

“Initials SG” at first gives an appearance of being an absurdist comedy with a protagonist who keeps running into bad luck. This movie is not for the faint of heart. In one of the movie’s scenes, Sergio’s nose injury causes him to have a nose bleed while filming a sex scene in a porn movie. In another scene, we find out the nose injury is more serious than it first appears to be. (Hint: If you’re disgusted by the idea of a slithery animal being stuck in a human body, you might want to skip this film.)

When Sergio goes out on the street outside his apartment, he keeps seeing a weird young man, who’s apparently in a drug-induced haze, because the young man stares up at the sky and points at something that isn’t there. That sidewalk character will play a pivotal role in the last third of the movie, which takes a very sinister turn, as secrets are revealed and covered up. But the movie’s final act is one that might leave audiences the most divided. It’s a bold twist to the story that will linger long after the credits roll.

UPDATE: “Initials SG” is available on HBO and HBO Max.

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