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Directed by Pedro Almovodar.
Written by Pedro Almodovar.
Starring Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas, Yohana Cobo and Carmen Maura.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  12/30/06


After seeing "Volver" with Meg this week, I must say that even though this is one of the easier Almodovar films to decipher, I really have no idea what just happened in there!  This had to do with a couple of different things:

  1. When you go to see a film with subtitles, make sure a) that you've had plenty of rest, and b) that the film is not almost two hours long...this is the equivalent of seeing a three-hour film in English, because a two-hour subtitled flick is a LOT of reading.

  2. Sometimes you are best off just believing what you see, because I was hurt by the fact that I thought one of the main characters was actually a ghost for the entire film.

"Volver" stars Penelope Cruz as Raimunda, mother of the awkwardly-beautiful Paola (Yohana Cobo) and husband to a no-good slouch who just happens to be eyeing up...his daughter!  One day, Raimunda comes home to find Paola crying, hands bloodied, and no-good slouch dead on the kitchen floor.  Panicked, the two women toss the man into a meat freezer and proceed to take care of a restaurant while its owner is on holiday; meanwhile, Raimunda's sister Sole (Lola Duenas) spends much of her time trying to hide the ghost of their mother, Irene (Carmen Maura), who seems so real that everyone can see her.  So wait, is she dead?  Maybe she's not dead...I'm so lost!

And, sadly, that is what happens sometimes when you get caught up in subtitles.  I still really don't know what happened.  I do know that the performances in "Volver" are very passionate, and Cruz--who is as good in Spanish films as she is bad in American films--is excellent as the lead with a dark past.  The quirky energy in this film reminded me a bunch of Almodovar's "Talk to Her"; it's not as insane as that film, with some of the best dream sequences ever, but "Volver" is constantly in motion despite the heavy backstories of the principal performers.

But, my confusion--certainly, isolated, since I'm sure most folks will coast through this and get what is going on--led to my eventual dissatisfaction with the film.  The whole is-Irene-alive-or-dead quandary will lead the film to be drastically different depending on what's right, and reading up on what other reviewers or even Almodovar himself intended won't help me now.  "Volver" is an interesting ride but one that eventually led me to many "WTF" moments in the car ride home.

Rating:  Matinee


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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, 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/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09