Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Film Yap: Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces is much like Shutter Island where the best and worst thing about it is that a brilliant director made it. If this wasn’t made by Pedro Almodóvar it may have been more acclaimed but it’s impossible not to compare this with his other greater films. (So instead of comparing this to his other films I compared this to a Scorsese film?) So it is no Talk to Her or All About My Mother, but it’s still worth checking out.

The film follows Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar) who used to be an acclaimed director before he became blind. Since then he has gone by the name Harry Caine where he spends his days imagining and writing. A man from his past returns insisting that he co-writes a script that is very autobiographical. Harry refuses, but his assistant presses him to tell the story about what happened. Harry tells the story of when he used to be Mateo and he was working on one of his films, a comedy. He hires Lena Rivas (Penélope Cruz) to play the actress and starts a love affair despite the fact that she is involved with a wealthy man who is obsessed with her.

All of the love stories are intriguing and is easy to root for certain characters, but the film slips when the real romance is aimed towards the art. In the last act of the film, it becomes more about what happened to Mateo’s film than what happened to other characters. Typically it is easy for me to invest in writers and directors, but the film never fully established Mateo as someone who is passionate about the craft. We always see him working and he is very good at directing and writing. There is a chance that his love for art is actually an extension of his love for others, but if that is the case then it’s still important for the audience to have feelings for the project.

The movie is called Girls and Suitcases, but is clearly an homage to Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Instead of Carmen Maura as the lead, it’s Penélope Cruz. Despite being centered on Mateo/Harry, it feels like Cruz’s film because she’s so darn good in it. She has to play several variations of Lena depending on whom she is interacting with. It’s a great performance and I wish America would figure out a better way to utilize her talents. She’s able to focus on so many nuances and is able to make it look effortless. There is an amazing scene where art and reality blends and she has to recite her own lines from her own life in a new context. At that point in the story the audience desperately wants to watch both Lenas at once and it’s so satisfying.

The story isn’t too complex, but it’s full of really great moments. The payoffs aren’t from the reveals, but from spending times with the characters. Mateo Blanco/Harry Caine is a very complex character and there could easily be more stories following him. A return to him in five or ten more years in his life could be a really interesting perspective.

The bonus features are not great, but are each a lot of fun. There are deleted scenes that stand well on their own. One of them works well with another bonus feature where it is more extensions of Girls and Suitcases. There are also cool featurettes where the work of Almodóvar and Cruz is highlighted intelligently through raw footage and interviews. My only compliant is pure greed: I want more.

Movie: 4 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

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