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I’ve said it many times; I am not a fan of biopics. They always overextend themselves to the point of unbelievability because of the same actors playing everyone from 20-80 years old. The ones that work are those that take a slice of life rather than the entirety of it, like The Queen and Capote. Let’s say I was very surprised to find out how much I enjoyed Frida. From her college years until her death, this film never feels like we are learning about her life—it never seems like a history lesson. Instead we are treated with a story of love and love lost, a tale that intrigues on a literary level rather than an, “oh that’s what her life was like” one. Much of this success, I’m sure, is due to the stunning visual imagery utilized by director Julie Taymor. She has taken this story and infused it with her own imagination and interpretations of Frida Kahlo’s work and has created a piece of art herself. At the end you don’t think how now you know Frida’s life; what you say is that you know her work and the emotional turmoil needed to create it.

Kahlo was a woman in love while also scorned by it, along with fate, throughout her life. She faced love’s hurt as well as the physical pain of accidents and a crippled body. The real trouble though, was that through it all, she was always full of joy and happiness and a willingness to give it to those around her. Just by looking at her artwork, I always assumed Kahlo was a woman in pain, showing her suffering on the canvas. However, if this film is true, she was full of life and optimism. No matter what was thrown her way, she never let it get to her. If anything, this helps me understand her paintings even more now. Her body failed her and she allowed her canvases to become vessels for her soul.

This film would be nothing without the performances of Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina. Molina has always been a favorite of mine, but after this role I am even more impressed. The way he channels the aggression mixed with compassion is impressive. His exterior can be menacing and his ideals can bring up an unmatched anger, but at the end of the day Diego Rivera is a man led along by love. If he could never stop the infidelity, he still could unequivocally love his wife. Frida was the one woman that kept him going. The many chapters in their relationship had pain involved, but their connection to each other always won out. As for Hayek, I have never seen anything special come from her. After this, though, I can say she truly deserved the Oscar nomination. Fully encompassing the artist, any preconceptions of her as an actress are thrown out the window. She is Frida Kahlo for the duration and you never question her authenticity or emotion. Working through the pain of life, Hayek displays how a strong will can help battle God’s numerous follies set forth for you.

Both leads have career performances here, but the rest of the cast isn’t too bad either. Besides Taymor’s artistic prowess, gaining her start after directing the Broadway production of “The Lion King”, she seems to have the star power draw. Ashley Judd, Edward Norton, Antonio Banderas, and Geoffrey Rush are just a few of the big name cameos seen throughout. None of them have too big of a role and all of them complement the stars perfectly. The best supporting player, however, is the artistry on display. Sure there are some gorgeous transitions between some scenes, and wonderful montages of collaged still work and filmed motion, (the arrival to NYC), but the real masterpiece lies in the living paintings. The use of this trick, showing a Kahlo work whose subjects come to life, is phenomenal to behold. Not only visually stunning, this gimmick helps show the parallel of her canvas to her true self. The body holding her ideals and thoughts on earth was not it. Kahlo put pieces of her inner being on display each time she worked. The way this little maneuver worked here has only made me feel more excited for Taymor’s next film Across the Universe, and has whet my appetite to seek out Titus to see what this visionary has done and think of what she could do in the future.

Frida 8/10

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photography:
[1] Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina in Miramax’s Frida – 2002
[2] Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Alfred Molina in Miramax’s Frida – 2002

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