Ramón (Àlex Casanovas) is a fashion photographer who one day on returning to the mansion he shared with his mother and stepfather, writer Nicholas (Peter Coyote), heard a couple of gunshots as he pulled up in his car and rushed inside to discover both of them with bullet wounds. What had apparently happened was that his mother had taken a pistol to commit suicide with, shot her husband in the arm as he tried to stop her, then fired it straight into her heart. That was three years ago, and Ramón has never really gotten over it, indeed he appears to have died himself and Nicholas asks a cosmetics expert Kika (Verónica Forqué) over to the home to put makeup on the corpse to make him presentable for the funeral...
Kika was the Pedro Almodóvar movie that began to have audiences and critics alike wondering if he was all he was cracked up to be, or if in fact he was a purveyor of shocks under the guise of supposedly progressive comedy. Certainly in the mid-nineties he fell out of favour thanks to how controversial this had been, and his follow-ups were judged as similarly disappointing, so it was all the more remarkable he clawed back his reputation a few films later and became much respected once more, efforts like Kika being figuratively swept under the carpet. That said, it remained in distribution for anyone to see, and the less scathing fans embraced it as much as his other works.
Though it was notable not as many as would his earlier, humorous pieces like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, or later dramas like All About My Mother, leaving it drifting off the coast of island of praise rather than slap bang in the middle of it. The chief issue that was brought up was the central comic setpiece, where the title character was raped by a pervert porn star (Santiago Lajusticia) who we have just been told would regularly commit incest with his lesbian sister (Rossy de Palma) because she wanted him to channel his sexual energies elsewhere, rather than assaulting various animals and people. As ever with Almodóvar, his near the knuckle exploits were presented in his weirdly wacky, matter of fact manner, but even so there were too many turning their noses up at him to ignore.
The scene didn't happen in isolation, and had a plot point to clear up since there's another pervert watching the rape through his camera, the theme of voyeurism one of the overt subjects, and this was extended to the audience, asking them if they are garnering vicarious enjoyment from this film as much as they would watching a tabloid television exposé or even spying on someone themselves in real life. Since it's only the men who have a tendency towards sexual deviancy here, you had to assume the director was well and truly on the side of the women, which really should have softened the blow of how the females are abused within his plot, but nevertheless was uncomfortable if you didn't much fancy being condemned in this way, even if it was a "joke".
In fact, there wasn't much to laugh at with Kika at all, the central character a flighty chatterbox who was presumably intended to make you chuckle, but she was in a vacuum of her own as the other characters scurried around wrapped up in themselves and the foibles of the folks surrounding them. Reducing everyone to their least attractive qualities was also supposed to have the viewer laughing, but this wasn't successful as farce either, babbling away in a faux offensive manner as it halfheartedly took on the exploitative nature of modern life when citizens were far more interested in digging out the unhealthy quirks and outright flaws in others rather than improving their own drawbacks. Victoria Abril showed up as Andrea, decked out in outrageous Jean-Paul Gaultier costumes as befitting her role as a TV hostess of a programme that feasts on sensationalism, and along with de Palma the only female who Almodóvar brings himself to almost admit some of his women may not be helpful, though he didn't commit to it when he preferred to lampoon the men. If there is any laughter here, it's hollow.