Sunday, April 25, 2010

Broken Embraces: Grade C

Broken Embraces (2009)
Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar. Writer & Director Pedro Almodovar. (Spanish, subtitled)

The combination of Almodvar and Cruz is usually a winner, but not this time, and it is the director who did not hold up his end of the deal.

The main character (Homar) is an aging blind writer who must come to terms with his past (shown in time cuts), when he was a sighted film director. Working on his last film, he had a passionate affair with his leading lady (Cruz) who was two-timing her rich but gerontological husband. As we learn later, children of indefinite paternity follow.

But it is a soap-opera story full of clich├ęd melodrama that produces no dramatic tension and little interest. Instead the only things to keep a viewer interested are Cruz’s acting and Almodovar’s directing. Cruz is a fine actor and does an impressive job with the weak material, but the main thing about her in this movie is how she looks. The director has her in dozens of costumes and wigs, with all kinds of makeup and sometimes no makeup, which is a bit shocking, to see her as an ordinary woman. If Almodovar wants to burst the movie bubble and show her as just a woman, fine, but what’s the point? We knew that. We go to the movies for the fantasy.

As for the directing itself, it is interesting and colorful, as you would expect from Almodovar. Having the camera pan back and forth between actors having a conversation was like watching a tennis match, but it was interesting, and it did work, and a technical marvel, as the focus stayed completely sharp. But despite these and other creative innovations, you have to ask, what is the point? There was no significant story driving it all, and only very mundane dialog. I felt like I was watching a daytime soap on Univision. So there is enough interest here to make the film worth a look, but that’s all.

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