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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 Stephen Groenewegen

"From the art"
3 stars

Frida is a striking, colorful recount of the life of Mexican artist and icon, Frida Kahlo. As with so many of these artist biopics (the most recent being Ed Harris’ Pollock), Frida was a labour of love for its star, Salma Hayek, who also co-produced the film.

Hayek may feel a great spiritual connection to the woman, and has a convincing resemblance when made up and wearing Frida’s clothes, but there’s something flat about her performance. Hayek acts up when Frida is fiery, spitting in anger at her disloyal husband, the womanising artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). She smoulders and suffers for all she’s worth and has real spirit when seducing radical photographer Tina Modotti (Ashley Judd) at a party. But that spirit is too often lacking. Perhaps Hayek felt constrained by having to convey Frida’s constant, agonising pain. Director Julie Taymor recreates the trolley car accident that later caused endless medical complications in Frida’s life with an exotic visual flourish early in the film.

Taymor’s imaginative design concept for Frida is its saviour. She takes her cue from the paintings, shooting Hayek mostly in centre frame and dressed in bright colours, like one of Frida’s famous self-portraits. The bold, vibrant background colours are also derived from Frida’s art. It gives the film a strong unifying look. The work of Taymor’s collaborators, many of them Mexican, adds to the ocular pleasure - cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, production designer Felipe Fernández del Paso, art director Bernardo Trujillo and also costume designer Julie Weiss. Elliot Goldenthal’s Mexican-tinged score is, most likely, different to anything you’ve heard from him before.

Taymor’s tricks and gags give life to the film, and include animated Day of the Dead skeletons in the hospital after Frida’s accident, and a King Kong pastiche when Frida and Diego visit New York in 1930 (three years before King Kong was released, but never mind). Best of all are sequences when a motionless Hayek slowly shimmers into life, walking out of one of Frida’s canvases.

Occasionally, Taymor’s instincts backfire. When Frida visits cities as vibrant as New York and Paris, it’s hard to accept her as the only splash of colour. But the vivid images help distract from the prosaic screenplay, credited to Clancy Sigel, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas (with an uncredited polish by Hayek’s beau, Edward Norton). Too often, the lumpy, simplified dialogue sounds like something out of a school play. And the pacing of Frida’s story is confusing. Her final years – during which Diego returned and they remarried – are compressed into 10 minutes. In reality, their second marriage lasted 14 years until Frida’s death, but here, Diego returns on what seems to be a passing whim.

Frida fails to convince as a great love story. Frida and Diego spend so much time fighting and taking separate lovers it’s hard to believe in them as soul mates. The bear like Molina sometimes channels his jealous artist lover of Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears. A string of Hollywood stars play historical cameos - Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Edward Norton as Nelson Rockefeller and Geoffrey Rush as Leon Trotsky (Diego Luna from Y tu mamá también also shows up as Frida’s first boyfriend). Only Rush stays long enough to establish more than a fleeting presence. But we’re mostly too busy watching Frida for other characters to come to life.

At one point, Rivera describes Frida’s art as “agonised poetry on canvas”. There’s more agony than poetry in this film (too many lovers, not enough art). Eventful as Frida’s life was, it’s the film’s distinctive appearance you remember afterwards, not what takes place within the frame.

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originally posted: 12/19/02 17:26:38
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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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