Tonight, I finish up my Oscar film reviews (just in time for tomorrow’s Epitome of Randomness: Oscar Preview Edition) by starting with Javier Bardem (nominated for Best Actor) in the Mexican film Biutiful.
Basic Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: The story of Uxbal (played by Javier Bardem) – a cancer-ridden single father – with an undying love for his kids – who struggles to reconcile love, spirituality, crime, guilt, morality, and even fatherhood amidst the dark and dangerous underworld of Barcelona – all before death comes knocking at his door.
The Pros: Man, what a depressing fucking movie. And yes, that’s actually a PRO in this case. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, in his first film since 2006’s Babel, has created such a dark, gritty world that so easily encapsulates his audience. The reason why, I think, is because it just feels more like a documentary then a movie – it feels like Iñárritu followed this guy around for however long and just shot this guy’s entire life as it happened – that’s how realistic this movie looks. It’s almost scary – and similar to my feelings/reactions on 127 Hours and Blue Valentine, I felt blessed afterwards that I am not (or have never been) in any of the situations depicted in Biutiful.
However, what makes all of the great filmmaking actually work and come alive is the awesome performance by Javier Bardem (his best since No Country For Old Men) – an unconventional hero in an unsympathetic world. When your death clock is set, and you have two children who are about to be left without a father, so many thoughts and emotions run through a man’s mind – in most cases, the thoughts drift to, “what kind of legacy will I leave behind for them? What will they remember when they think of me 10 years from now?” Whenever a man will go through what this man goes through for the love and well-being of his children, he will always get a pass in my book, and Bardem almost took that archtype to another level; he becomes the embodiment of love and sacrifice. If you see this movie for any reason whatsoever, see it for Bardem’s performance, because I’m telling you, it will linger in your mind for a long time after the credits have rolled.
The Cons: This film can be hard to sit through at times; not just for the content itself, but the pacing really causes it to drag at times. While it is a pretty long movie (about 136 minute running time), I thought the pacing of the film could have been smoother, with the director going overboard on some unnecessary establishing shots.
I would also complain about the film’s length, but, looking back, I can’t think of anything (other than quicker edits and, like I just mentioned, taking out some of those establishing shots) that should be taken out, as everything scene served a purpose. Still, when halfway through a film you can start feeling its length and you start getting worn out, that’s a problem (Inception was a long movie – but not once did I flinch or feel worn out.)
Conclusion: Like I mentioned before, this movie can be hard to sit though – in more ways than one. The images on the screen can be hard to handle for some viewers, but from an analytical standpoint, it’s one of those movies where you have to really be paying attention to what’s going on or you’ll start to lose interest – quickly. I’m not necessarily saying you’ll get lost if you don’t pay attention (as if it were Inception), but because the emotion of the characters and the reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing drives this film, it’s important to pay attention to that or you won’t give a damn about the rest of the film. And in a film like this, emotional investment is the key to overall enjoyment and understanding. Javier Bardem gives us a damn good reason to invest in his character – and by the end of the film, his performance will almost haunt you on your way out of the theater. Now it makes sense why this guy was nominated for an Oscar, despite being nominated for a MEXICAN film – that one was for Big D 🙂 . Recommended for Adults. Audio in Spanish with English subtitles.
Final Score: *** ½ (3.5/5)
And that’ll do it. As always, any questions, comments, or feedback in general, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply leave a comment in the comments section below.
Coming up next, an exploration of the Australian underworld in Animal Kingdom !
Until next time, I’m out!