Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos)" - REVIEW

To call Broken Embraces, the latest from Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, one of his "lesser efforts," is actually to compliment the man and his career enormously. For if this film is to be considered among his lesser works, then it speaks volumes about how magnificent the best of his films can be (2006's sublime Volver). One of Almodovar's strengths is his ability to simply sit down and tell a story, and that's true as ever here is his latest blend of mystery, melodrama, and campy comedy (like the best of his work, the film is filled with moments of noir-ish darkness and side-splitting hilarity alike). As such, to give away too much of the plot would be criminal; what I'll say is that the film resolves around a writer/director (Lluis Homar) trying to decide what to do with his next film, while revisiting a very crucial moment from his past. Played out beautifully by the cast led by Homar, Blanca Portillo, and Penelope Cruz (who is actually a supporting character, albeit a major one), and under Almodovar's guiding hand as both director and writer, Broken Embraces is filled with mystery. And while she may be a supporting player, the film's best moments are when Cruz is on screen. She plays both of her roles (as wannabe actress and actress in a film within the film) wonderfully and looks ravishingly beautiful while doing it. If anything, if Cruz deserves to be nominated for a supporting role in a film about a troubled director, is should be this one. My only issue with the film is that the final act is a hair too long; it's not boring, but there are a few shots and fade outs where Almodovar seems to be setting up for a gentle fade-to-black, but keeps going. That said, when the film does actually end, it feels just right. As per usual, Almodovar's film is filled with beautifully composed images, without feeling overwrought or out of context, the editing remains as sharp as ever, and Alberto Iglesias' intriguing, lush score only heightens the atmosphere.

Grade: B+

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