Frida

          Frida Kahlo was definitely one of a kind. A bisexual painter of
  Spanish and German descent, she was injured in a traffic accident in
  1922. The prognosis wasn't good, but Frida's will won out and she
  defied the doctors' claim that she'd never walk again. Although she
  spent the rest of her life in pain and referred to herself as "a cripple,"
  she managed to emerge as a potent artist. Her stormy marriage,
  divorce and remarriage to muralist and painter Diego Rivera added
  to her cache. She sold some of her work during her lifetime, but like
  most artists came to be appreciated only after her death. In the early
  1980s, there was a flutter of interest in her again when a biography
  by Hayden Herrera was published and a Spanish-language biopic
  (directed by Paul Leduc) was produced.

          Hollywood remained enthralled with the story, though. At one point
  actress Laura San Giacomo was cast as Frida, but a protest by Hispanic
  groups over the casting of a non-Latin actor in the role stalled the
  project. More recently, performers as diverse as Madonna (who owns
  several of Kahlo's paintings) and Jennifer Lopez were angling
  to portray this enigmatic woman on screen. But it was Salma Hayek
  who managed to win the screen rights to Herrera's biography. As one
  of the producers and star, Hayek fulfilled her dream of playing Kahlo.
  For all her tenacity, though, I wish the on screen results were more
  compelling.

          Perhaps because it took four credited writers (including Gregory
  Nava) with the screen adaptation (and an uncredited polish by Hayek's
  then-significant other Edward Norton), Frida doesn't quite gel. Certainly
  it's true that artists and writers, however talented and/or troubled,
  don't make the best subject for film biography. Despite the drama
  inherent in her life, Kahlo is no exception. The film begins with Frida
  being carried out in her bed and heading to her first art show in Mexico,
  then flashes back to just prior to her accident, when she first
  encounters Rivera (portrayed with gusto by Alfred Molina). From that
  vantage point, the film moves through the key episodes of Kahlo's
  life. Despite the wonderful directorial flushes of Julie Taymor (a
  puppet show of skeletons serving as the doctors operating on Kahlo,
  a takeoff of
KING KONG as Rivera and Kahlo arrive in NYC, tableaux
  of Frida's paintings that spring to life, etc.), the film only fitfully
  comes to life. This, even though Taymor and her design team
  have created a visually gorgeous movie, with vibrant, colorful sets
  (by production designer Felipe Fernandez del Paso) and terrific
  period costumes (by Julie Weiss), captured beautifully by
  cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, the limp script undercuts everything.
  Yet, Elliot Goldenthal's underscore ranks as one of his best.

     A big problem with the movie for me, though, was Hayek's performance
  as Frida. She approximates the famous unibrow, dispenses with the
  mustache, but never seems to really embody the character. While
  on paper, Hayek as Kahlo seems inspired (much in the same way
  that Madonna as
EVITA did) it ultimately proves disappointing. She
  tries hard and wears the native garb and period clothes with brio,
  but somehow she fails to convey the inner workings of the character.
  The viewers are left with little sense of who Frida was or what made
  her tick.

          On the other hand, Alfred Molina is superb as Diego Rivera. His
  is a lusty, deeply felt performance, filled with humor and strength.
  There's nice work supplied by Valeria Golina as Rivera's former wife,
  and Mia Maestro and Roger Rees as Kahlo's sister and father. There
  are also cameo appearances by Ashley Judd (dancing a mean tango
  as photographer Tina Modotti), Antonio Banderas as painter David
  Alfaro Siqueiros, Edward Norton as John D. Rockefeller Jr., Diego
  Luna as an early suitor of Frida's and Saffron Burrows as a Manhattan
  socialite who has affairs with both Frida and Diego.


                     
Rating:                        C
                     
MPAA Rating:               R for sexuality/nudity and language
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.