Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Film Review - Broken Embraces

Film #12 of 2010 - Broken Embraces

Films that are told in a non-linear style are nothing new, but it is always refreshing when it is done well. Director Pedro Almodovar does it really well in Broken Embraces. Starring Penelope Cruz as Lena, the mistress of an obsessive business magnate, Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez) who lives in luxury, but dreams to be an actress. When she auditions for writer Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar) he acknowledges her acting limitations, but sees her potential and finds her beauty striking. The two fall into an inevitable affair, but have to contend with the wrath of seemingly mild-mannered, but powerful and terrifying Martel.

With Broken Embraces, Almodovar returns to a mostly serious film that can also be classified as a mystery and thriller. The viewer is dropped into the film in the middle of the action, and has to put the pieces of the puzzle together as Almodovar hands them out, and despite this unconventional delivery, the pacing is very good. Like most of his other films, the story is rich and intriguing, and extremely fulfilling as it unfolds. Though his standard strong and beautiful imagery is ever-present, Almodovar’s true strength is always in drawing amazing performances out of his actors, particularly his muse, Penelope Cruz. Cruz seems to be a somewhat polarizing actress; it seems that people either like her or really dislike her. I used to be in the latter group, until I watched her in Volver, Almodovar’s previous film. I’m not sure what it is about their partnership, but Cruz is luminous in the film, regardless of what abuse Almodovar puts her through. Almodovar has a troupe of actors that he surrounds himself with who act in most of his films; sometimes with starring roles, sometimes they have small parts. They are always really solid, regardless.

I have loved Almodovar films for almost twenty years, starting with seeing Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1988, my freshman year in high school. Since that film, I have appreciated some of his films more than others, and I would put Broken Embraces somewhere between Talk to Her and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!. It’s very, very good, and even though I don’t consider it his best film, I highly recommend it. Don’t be afraid of the subtitles, and experience this good movie.

4 stars out of 5

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