Salma Hayek's long-lived project finally makes it to the big screen, with the help of creative director Julie Taymor (Titus and Broadway's hit "The Lion King"), a magnificent supporting cast (Alfred Molina, Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd and Geoffrey Rush) and even her boyfriend, Edward Norton. Her determination paid off, for the movie earned many Oscar nominations, including Best Actress and Best Director, and won for Best Makeup and Best Original Score. But, is Frida worth the glamour?
Hayek is Frida Kahlo, the acclaimed Mexican artist that lived a life of pain and infidelity, yet took great joy in her work. After nearly losing her ability to walk in a horrible trolley accident, she married famous painter Diego Rivera (Molina), who was known for his womanizing. His meandering eyes would lead their relationship down rough paths, and his politics (communism) would ask for even harder times.
Hayek is an actress that has been cursed by her looks. She is beautiful and so people rarely think of her as anything but that. I have always considered her a good actress, and in Frida, she successfully shows what she is capable of. Is her performance Oscar worthy? Maybe not, but her determination and passion for the subject overcome any limitations, and perhaps the problem isn't with her but with the movie itself.
Frida is a good movie, but not a fabulous one. Taymor keeps things fairly simple, but occasionally throws in stints of extreme strangeness, especially when she depicts Rivera as King Kong on top of the Empire States Building. This weirdness can only be expected from Taymor (after all, look what she did to Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus"), but it does somewhat clash with the otherwise traditional approach that seven-eighths of the movie has. Furthermore, Frida basically only suffers from a story that goes on for just a little too long; after a while, things grow old. The humor that is more common in the earlier stages of the movie dies away, and what is left is a pretty-looking biopic with good acting.
Again, Frida is a good movie, but it never attains that level of power or passion that a drama like this needs. While Frida goes through many rough times in her life, it seems as though Hayek never really gets to unleash on camera. For such an independent woman, she is rather reserved at times, and this is why I wasn't completely blown away by her performance. I know Hayek is passionate about the character, yet she is never passionate as the character.
The one exceptional aspect of the film is Alfred Molina. Though I know little of the real Diego Rivera, Molina is stunning. He brings great force to the camera and does a perfect job as a conflicted a man, who at times shows great affection towards his wife, yet constantly is cheating on her.
For someone who is not well versed in art history, I think Taymor needed to go more in depth as to why Frida Kahlo is considered such a great painter. I respect her work, but the movie never really explains why she is so special; that is its greatest problem. Though many interesting events took place in Kahlo's life (such as the interactions with Trotsky), but Frida never captures the essence of the character.
Frida is definitely worth seeing - it is one of the better movies of the year - but lacks the strength that a really good biographical drama needs.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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