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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.86%
Average: 16.07%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 38 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Show Me The Art!"
2 stars

Call me uncultured, call me ill-informed, but when it comes to the art world, Iím mostly at a loss. Itís not that I canít appreciate a beautiful painting or donít know my way around a few choice artists, but when it comes to background info or seeking out new innovators, Iím not the Renaissance Man I aspire to be. Thatís why I love the pictures that move. They can be informative, beautiful and challenging in the same way (if not, more so) that the coffee house/living poetís society deem worthy of the colorful, still images. Julie Taymorís Frida is certainly beautiful to look at, but its not very informative about its titular character and no more challenging than your average television biopic.

Salma Hayek (in a fine, but not quite Oscar-worthy performance) plays painter Frida Kahlo and thatís applying a loose label considering one thing in the film we rarely see is her actually painting. As we first meet her, its obvious that her personality does not lend to conformity (she dresses like a man for a family portrait) which only further endears her to loving father, Guillermo (Roger Rees). One day, Frida finds herself in the middle of a horrific trolley accident (filmed in stylish, almost beautiful fashion) that is the beginning of a life of consistent pain. Her first drawing of a butterfly for her exeunt lover unsubtly parallels her full body cast cocoon.

As she emerges and is able to walk again, she begins a relationship with hulking painter and revolutionary, Diego Rivera (a terrific Alfred Molina). Their lifelong alliance consists of the womanizing Rivera making Frida aware of his love for the flesh as well as the paint, having her accept his indiscretions (like most famous biopic stories) yet still seeing her succumbing to the natural anger and jealousy when his nude paintings become a reality. So prevalant are Riveraís actions (a good portion deals with his infamous Rockefeller mural) that the film just as well could have been called ďDiegoĒ.

Fridaís story does come to life though whenever we get a glance at her finished work. Usually viewed as an afterthought of Frida dealing with her troubled marriage or her grueling bodyaches (which we never get a true sense of), her art does come off as a representation of her life. Presented all the more striking because Taymor makes the work breathe in montages as the colors find a surrealistic movement that isnít quite animation and not quite reality. Whatever clashes Taymor may have had with the Miramax Weinstein Bros. in bringing this to the screen, its only in these moments that the beauty of Fridaís work give us an insight to both the woman and the artist.

A filmmaker as ambitious as Taymor (who brought us the incredible anachronistic magnificence of Shakespeareís Titus and the stage production of The Lion King) should have seen this as the real story instead of just touching (up)on every significant event in her life and brushing it over like a footnote. (A long affair with Russian writer, Leon Trotsky, is treated like a one-night stand.) Fridaís strokes with lesbianism come and go, but we never get inside her mind which, at times, came off as twisted as the bones she struggled with time and time again.

ďDonít give me one of your speeches about the artist and the people,Ē comes from the mouth of one of the characters and itís the most telling statement about the film. If ever there was a time to show and not tell, its in the portrait of an artiste. Focusing on an artform that depends on both our eyes and our viewpoint, thereís no point in telling the same Ďol story especially on a figure that many may be unfamiliar with. Michael Mann missed his opportunity last year with Ali (on an icon that EVERYONE knows) and now Taymor plays it safe on an artisan whose work could have opened up the eyes of new viewers instead of distracting them with a barrage of celebrity cameos (and Hayek nudity) that shift the focus away from the name on the marquee we came to check out. With so many from Antonio Banderas to Edward Norton to Ashley Judd all pitching in and obviously cutting their salaries to help tell what they must believed was an important and interesting story to have on record, itís sad the filmmakers couldnít recognize the aspect that was the most fascinating. The art.

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originally posted: 10/25/02 06:01:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/13/15 Hope Interesting and sad 5 stars
4/29/05 reptilesni Creatively told bigraphy. Less Diego, more Frida, would make for a higher rating. 4 stars
1/08/05 Steve Newman held my interest throughout. Never knew that such woman existed (or Rockfeller incident). 4 stars
11/19/04 Rodney Hale I found the love affair somewhat pathetic, of course that may have been the point! 4 stars
4/20/04 tatum Pretty straightforward biopic 4 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt Thought it would be boring, but was surprisingly interesting! Hayek/Judd dance was great! 3 stars
3/19/04 May Q. Horney Superb except for brain-dead casting of gringa Ashley Judd. 5 stars
3/18/04 Agent Sands Excellent cast and totally brilliant directing. Another great biopic. 5 stars
3/08/04 girl66 Just because it's about a great artist, doesn't mean it HAS to be a great film. It wasn't. 2 stars
10/30/03 Jinnvisible Lesbian car crash victim artist becomes, trotsky`s electriclandlady 4 stars
10/02/03 Mopsa No masterpiece, but interesting. Good cast 4 stars
8/04/03 Taylor Fladgate Great acting, film direction, score. Scipt held it back from an "awesome" rating. 4 stars
7/26/03 michael excellent movie will filmed and acted and I loved the music 5 stars
7/18/03 Dana LOVED the art direction; too bad we didn't get to know Frida... 3 stars
6/29/03 malcolm too artsy for me, but what did i expect 2 stars
4/09/03 Mystique Beautiful 5 stars
3/20/03 May Q. Horney Superb except for brain-dead casting of gringa Ashley Judd. 5 stars
3/20/03 Andrew Carden Surprisingly Fantastic Film, With Excellent Performances. 5 stars
3/19/03 Knickerbocker Beautiful Movie! Great lead actors. 5 stars
3/05/03 Heather Purplethorne Compelling portrait. Selma Hayek should win best actress! A. Molina and G. Rush also great. 5 stars
2/26/03 Leslie Michaels I really enjoyed this movie. It would have been difficult to be completely true to Frida K 5 stars
2/23/03 Goofy Maxwell aiiight...DL:HBS boards ain't always clean, deal. TM:there are better boards for that.peace 5 stars
2/22/03 Drunk Love Holy blue cojones, Tri-man -- Rest the wrist already! *Viva Frida* 5 stars
1/12/03 John Bale Sincere but long though finally rewarding, artistic biopic about an exciting woman. 4 stars
1/01/03 Jane Simmonds Possibly the best movie I have ever seen 5 stars
12/30/02 Kirk Groeneveld A better contender for Oscar than noted. Frank Nudity and sexual content. I enjoyed it! 5 stars
12/19/02 RR Nice review by Stephen: Frida is visually compelling, and a rather interesting experience 4 stars
12/13/02 Omar Very moving, but maybe a little unrealistic in tems of Salma Hayek's beauty and the sex. 5 stars
12/07/02 John Young "Diego" does not come across as Mexican, let alone as an artist and a revolutionist. The m 4 stars
12/04/02 Bruce Intense, stirring, passionate, stimulating 5 stars
12/03/02 shikita perfectly done. 5 stars
11/29/02 Jimmy Chang delightful, sad and moving 5 stars
11/06/02 Heather Great acting and visuals, one of the year's best 5 stars
11/05/02 MIke ALthough not about the art of Frida, it did a good job on her life. 5 stars
11/04/02 Melina it did a great job of relating frida's life to her artwork- Hayek & Molina were awesome! 5 stars
10/27/02 artemishia I love frida kohlo, and the movie didn't pay that much respect to her 3 stars
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  25-Oct-2002 (R)



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