Gloria (Carmen Maura) is a put-upon maid who, in order to stay alert while toiling away at multiple jobs, pop No-Doze pills like candy. Still, these uppers hardly alleviate the frustration and anger of contending with her loutish tax-driver husband (who once published a forged collection of Hitler’s letters, and is in love with German opera singer), her crotchety mother-in-law (who owns a pet lizard named Dinero and constantly bitches about moving back to her home village), her drug-dealing older son, and her young boy, who’s having sexual affairs with old men. In What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Pedro Almodóvar takes comedic aim at the miserable plight of working-class women in modern Spain, and, in the process, delivers the first satisfyingly unruly film of his career. The director’s controlled mise-en-scène is deliciously deadpan, and his film smoothly segues between farcical silliness and poignant melodrama, most gracefully during by an unsettling confrontation between Gloria and her husband that devolves into a lethally humorous slapstick sequence. Almodóvar pokes equal fun at the working and upper classes (embodied by a wealthy married couple attempting to publish a fictional version of Hitler’s diary), but his real affection is naturally reserved for Gloria and her outlandish demimonde friend Cristal, a bubbly, flamboyant stylish prostitute who lives next door to Gloria’s fractured clan. The film is one of Almodovar’s many tales of triumphant women sticking it to their callous, no-good men, as well as a somewhat harsh critique of a Spanish culture that dooms women to indentured servitude. Money is the root of Gloria’s unhappiness – she can’t procure any from her husband for groceries, and the lizard Dinero is just the latest annoyance created by the unbearable grandmother – and thus her husband’s and Dinero’s near-simultaneous deaths represent Gloria’s economic, emotional, and physical liberation. Carmen Maura is pitch-perfect in a glorious performance that gracefully mixes exasperation, anger and wit, and Almodóvar’s kinky, ribald humor is in fine form, whether it be his ironic TV commercials (here a coffee ad in which a woman being served breakfast in bed is horribly scalded when her beau trips), Gloria’s plans for revenge against her intolerable mother-in-law, or the inclusion of a telepathic child that seems straight of a Steven King novel. Not all of this stuff makes sense, but as with Almodóvar’s best stuff, many of the film’s best jokes seem to have been thrown into the mix simply because the director (correctly) thought it was funny.