Alejandro is a twenty-something drifter (and by that I mean unfocused) who works at a cryogenic storage facility, in which the bodies of those who choose to be frozen when facing certain death are stored. It sounds morbid, but at Alejandro’s age, it’s a job. His goal is to design toys. And his ideas are generationally perfect – a Barbie doll with her fingers crossed behind her back, a Cabbage Patch doll holding a cell phone. His generation should love this stuff. Unfortunately, Hasbro does not.

Compounding Alejandro’s unfruitful life is the fact that he’s a Mexican immigrant, and his employer acts as his sponsor so that he can continue to live and work in the U.S. on a work visa. This arrangement falls apart when Alejandro is fired for a mishap he may not have even caused, but for which he suffers the blame. Now facing deportation, Alejandro must quickly find a new sponsor.

Enter the high-strung, neurotic art critic Elizabeth, played with joyous aplomb by Tilda Swinton, who walks that fine tightrope between a take-no-prisoners Type-A businesswoman and a fire-eating shrew about to devour the next individual who dares to cross her path. Ironically (and this film is full of ironies), Elizabeth’s late husband Bobby was an artist who chose to be frozen upon a terminal cancer diagnosis. It was Bobby’s body in the tank which becomes unplugged, and for which Alejandro takes the fall.

These whimsical ironies pepper the original screenplay of former SNL writer Julio Torres, whose first solo big-screen work is the delightful “Problemista.” And when I say delightful, I mean this is a delightful picture for Generation Z – or whatever we’re calling the generation that comes after it. Any recent college grad juggling low-paying employment and the constant glass ceiling of unfulfilled career dreams will latch onto “Problemista” as though it’s some form of therapy, prophecy, or both. Torres may not have hit a proverbial home run with my generation, but then we’re not his target audience.

Having said that, I was entertained – particularly by the passive, submissive character of Alejandro. Much as Aubrey Plaza’s title character in 2022’s “Emily the Criminal,” Alejandro bounces from one issue or ordeal to another without much direction. He’s like the proverbial pinball, heading in a new direction with each bounce life hands him. I know this is stereotypical of his generation, but his character feels particularly directionless. Yes, he has goals (toy design career, permanent work visa), but how he reaches them is anyone’s guess. Including his.

Swinton’s Elizabeth is his arch opposite. Demanding and rude, she’s the type no one wants to spend any time with, lest we become the target of her unending ire. At first completely put off by the character, we come to see its humor, and eventually its pathos. She is particularly impatient with those in customer service positions – in sharp contrast to the overly forgiving Alejandro, who likely has friends in such jobs.

The fact that Elizabeth hires Alejandro at all is perhaps as much a function of the screenplay as it is a plot development to be taken seriously. Then again, we do ourselves a disservice to take any of these proceedings too seriously, lest we miss the quaint whimsy of the world Torres has created. It’s best to simply let Elizabeth continue to froth at the mouth as Alejandro tries in vain to calm her down than it is to attempt to psychoanalyze any of this.

In another plot stretch, Elizabeth agrees to sponsor Alejandro for his work visa provided he helps her organize a public showing of her late husband’s art. Complicating matters is the fact that Alejandro has no idea how to organize an art show – although we must give the character kudos for his willingness to try. Why Elizabeth chooses him is beyond logic, save for the fact that he’s one of the only people she hasn’t upset yet.

Furthermore, the paintings Bobby left behind aren’t very good. They are paintings of eggs. Yes, eggs. In various surroundings, with various backgrounds. But still. Eggs. His paintings have already been rejected by many of the major museums around New York. With the cards stacked so heavily against success – either Elizabeth’s or Alejandro’s – we have a sneaky suspicion things will somehow turn out okay.

The result is a very good debut film for Torres – in terms of his writing and his screen presence. In another twist of irony, both lead characters learn something from one another. Elizabeth begins to ever-so-slowly soften, while Alejandro develops an edge. The final scene is excellent, as the non-present Elizabeth guides Alejandro through his career-altering “interview” with Hasbro’s hiring manager.

Will we be discussing “Problemista” next year when it’s time for critics to reveal their Top Ten Lists, or when Oscar nominations are announced? Probably not. But this film stands out as a very promising debut for a young actor and filmmaker who is actually 37 years old, but comes off as 23. I look forward to seeing what else Torres may have up his sleeve.

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