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"Frida"

Directed by Julie Taymor.
Written by Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas. 
Starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  11/11/02 

Folks--

It is a funny irony (to me, at least) that I have Salma Hayek in the requirements for an Opening Weekend film, but most of her films have not gotten that rating from me.  In fact, only two of her starring credits—“Desperado” and “Timecode”—are even good films, with most falling into the category of “the movie sucked, but at least she was hot in it”, like “From Dusk Till Dawn” or the worst film that I saw in 1999, “Wild Wild West.”  I honestly don’t think Hayek has ever been motivated to be good in a film until “Frida.”

And, even without the gratuitous Hayek nudity and sex scenes in “Frida”, the movie stands on its own as a great, entertaining ensemble effort that shows us Hayek might be off to an acting career, not a career as a jiggle star.  The true story of artist Frida Kahlo in the film starts in Mexico City in 1922, where Frida suffers through the first of many tragedies in a trolley accident alongside her boyfriend Alejandro (Diego Luna, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”).  After being partially paralyzed, she begins painting while confined to her bed and develops a talent that attracts the eye of a popular Mexican Communist painter named Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina, “Chocolat” and briefly in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”).  Frida and Diego develop a relationship that goes beyond professional as they marry and become lifelong best friends.

I came into the film not knowing an ounce of who Frida was and what hardships she went through, but one can see after viewing the film why so many actresses wanted to play this part; in the last two years, projects starring Jennifer Lopez and Madonna were close calls but Hayek got her film rolling first.  The drama in Frida’s life is ready-made for a TV movie or theatrical release and all of it shocked the hell out of me as one thing after another goes wrong.  Hayek handles all of it beautifully.  Her energy is exciting, she handles drama well, the singing and the dancing look natural and she has good comic moments to mix in with the tense action.  But, the best performance in “Frida” belongs to Molina.  Guys like Diego make me angry in real life—he is of average looks, but his charm is easy to read and women, for whatever reason, simply love the guy!  And of course, he is a bastard, but he is that rare lovable bastard and Molina hits it right on the head.  As he tells Frida that he simply cannot be faithful to any woman, he throws in a joke or two and we are laughing with him, even though he is honestly putting out there that he is a cheating bastard.  He seduces you with that charm and he does it for the whole film.  Fantastic.

Also fantastic is the rare film about painters that actually allowed me—a non-lover of paintings—to understand the works of the painter being profiled.  Although Frida’s paintings look a little strange and twisted to the untrained eye (i.e., MY eye), director Julie Taymor made these paintings clear to me in terms of what they meant to the painter.  In “Pollock”, I seriously had no idea why everyone thought the guy was so good.  Taymor mixes the live-action scenes with some little animated pieces well here, and usually that doesn’t turn me on, either.  The supporting cast here is killer—serious actors like Geoffrey Rush, major stars like Ashley Judd, and eye candy like she-never-gets-too-old Valeria Golino and hot newcomers like Mia Maestro, as Frida’s sister Cristina.

Hayek isn’t even sitting next to me right now pointing a gun at me (although, that would never be a bad thing, eh?) and I am telling you to go out and see this film.  I was surprised that “Frida” was this good to me; I had heard about its positive advance screenings but after seeing it myself, I have to second those reviews!

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09