Thursday, February 18, 2010
BROKEN EMBRACES / ***½
Distributor: Sony Classics
Release Date: November 20, 2009
Running Time: 105 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Watching films about characters who are filmmakers is usually an engaging concept. After all, filmmakers certainly know a lot more about making films than they do about being a police officer, or playing sports, for example.
When the writer and director of said film is one as skilled as Pedro Almodóvar, my level of interest goes even higher. While I haven’t seen all of his films (“Bad Education” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” have eluded me), I’ve never seen a bad Almodóvar film, and I wonder if he’s even capable of making one.
“Embraces” stars Penelope Cruz (frequent Almodóvar collaborator and muse) as Lena, a wannabe actor who works as a receptionist for the super wealthy Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez). When her father becomes ill, Martel financially takes care of him. Cut to several years later, and now Lena and Martel are a couple.
The other side of the story follows a man named Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), a blind screenwriter who doesn’t let his lack of sight preclude him from hooking up with gorgeous women who help him cross the street. One day Harry is visited by the mysterious Ray X (Rubén Ochandiano), who wants Harry to write a film about his father. It doesn’t take long to figure out where some of these pieces fit.
From here Almodóvar seamlessly integrates flashbacks into the narrative to tell the story of how Lena, Martel, Caine, and Ray X are entwined in each others’ lives. The style of the film is reminiscent of classic Hitchcock, as Almodóvar lets the tension build slowly and never betrays the audience’s trust with gratuitous twists and turns.
Key to the success of the film is the luminous performance of Penelope Cruz. She handles every facet of the character with a powerful movie-star charm that is no doubt accentuated by the quality of material that Almodóvar gives her. Cruz may have been nominated for “Nine,” but this is her real best performance this year.
Theater: The Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha, NE
Time: 120 pm
Date: February 4, 2010