Aliens with Extraordinary Skills

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Halfway through Saviana Stanescu’s delightfully cracked fairy tale about the perils of illegal immigration, a beer-swilling suitor explains his preference for girlfriends unpracticed in English. “When you’re forced to pay closer attention to people’s words, you actually communicate better.” By that token, Stanescu, who has been living in the U.S. for only six years, makes the perfect date. A native Romanian, her writing in English has more scrupulous care, more pure attention than someone to the grammar born. Aliens with Extraordinary Skills may feel just like a lark—there’s understated silliness, a set of adorable strugglers and just the right thread of romance. But it’s also a triumph of listening.

After clowns Nadia (Natalia Payne) and Borat (Seth Fisher) discover their hard-won visas are fake, the race for legalization is on. Villainous INS agents pursue them even in their dreams, chasing them through hallucinations (Emma Wilks’s throbbing projections) to New York. Craigslist does a godmotherly turn and spirits Nadia into the arms of a new life, complete with crackling roommate Lupita (an outstanding Jessica Pimentel) and possible romance. But what is selfless love next to a green card? Like all fables, Aliens talks blithely about suffering. The Little Mermaid’s new legs felt like knives; Sleeping Beauty’s wooers died in the thorns. The more Tea Alagic and her charming cast convince us of the sweetness of their tale, the more we feel its painful underpinning. Lurking in the woods is an immigration system that gorges itself on the undocumented. Sleep tight, everybody.

Women’s Project. By Saviana Stanescu. Dir. Tea Alagic. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.