MEXICO CITY - A construction magnate's preppy son is forced to drive one of Mexico City's battered green buses, while his spoiled sister waits tables at a cantina in a miniskirt and non-designer shoes. Their credit cards have been canceled, their BMWs and mansion seized.
The Mexican riches-to-rags movie, "We are the Nobles" has opened to packed theaters in a country with one of the world's widest income gaps - and a love for laughing at misfortune. More than 1 million people showed up in the first week to see the story of an impresario who fakes a government raid on his riches to teach his children the value of work.
Only a Hollywood blockbuster featuring Bruce Willis and DreamWorks' latest 3-D animation beat it at the box office last weekend, the second-biggest opening for a domestic film here in more than 10 years.
"Latin America is a region where middle class is very small," said writer and director Gary "Gaz" Alazraki. "So I thought if you want to capture the mood of the public with cinema, that's the first place to look, the contrast between rich and poor."
In the movie, patriarch German Noble's eldest son spends his days at daddy's company dreaming up big ideas, such as mixing the world's largest rum and Coke in Mexico City's storied Aztec Stadium. His daughter is engaged to a failed businessman and aspires to open a restaurant on her father's dime. The youngest is a hipster who preaches against capitalism, even as dad pays his private college tuition - until he is expelled for sleeping with a professor.
After surviving a heart attack and getting a second chance at life, Noble decides to stage a raid on his Beverly Hills-like home.
People like the fictitious Nobles appear on any ritzy corner of the city, where Mexico's carefully coiffed, wearing the highest fashions, can be seen stepping from the running boards of their enormous SUVs, their bodyguards lurking outside as they go for a workout or pedicure. They have been to the best schools in the world and the finest malls in Texas, but never to one of the city's ubiquitous, crowded marketplaces or a street-food stand.
"I haven't seen the archetypes of urban Mexico portrayed on the big screen so well in a long time," said Oscar de los Reyes, an expert on cinema and society at the Technological Institute of Monterrey.
"It's very interesting to see our characters transform," said Luis Gerardo Mendez, who plays eldest son Javi Noble. "You get to see on one side how this group of people spends so much money, and on the other end, the everyday jobs people have to do to survive. People who think there is no racism here, there is. It is called classism."
The script was inspired by the 1949 film "The Great Madcap" by surrealist Luis Bunuel.