Julie Taymor's FRIDA is a solidly entertaining biopic that's as easy to admire
as a Grant Wood painting, which is surprising since the movie tells the story of
controversial Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. At its worst it's like a
paint-by-numbers picture, but at its best, it sizzles with great Mexican folk
music and warmly inviting cinematography.
Kahlo is played energetically by Salma Hayek, who is like a mouse of a woman
next to her elephantine co-star, Alfred Molina who plays Kahlo's husband and
fellow artist Diego Rivera. Rivera, an infamous womanizer, brags that he is
"physiologically incapable of fidelity," something that Kahlo is aware of when
she signs on to be the third Mrs. Rivera. Kahlo turns out to have her own
roving eye, spotting male and female prey. Rivera, who lives a comfortably
middle-class existence, is an active communist. He likes nothing better than
arguing about Stalin vs. Hitler and socialism vs. communism. At one point,
Rivera lets Leon Trotsky take refuge in Kahlo's father's house. Trotsky is
played badly by Geoffrey Rush who adopts an awful Russian accent.
The most memorable sequence in FRIDA comes when Kahlo is injured for life in a
bus accident. The movie's follow-up to the disaster is less satisfying.
Although the artist was in pain for the rest of her life, in the movie she
appears rather spry and healthy in most of the post-accident scenes except for
the weeks just after the accident and just before the end of the film.
Unlike the best artist movies, FRIDA takes little time in examining the creative
process. Instead, it is much more interested in the artists' sexual escapades
and subsequent arguments. These are quite fun, however, and turn the film into
a nicely lurid soap opera, which has the twist of being based on a true story.
I like a good soap opera, and, on that level, FRIDA delivers. But the Oscar
buzz about it just isn't warranted.
FRIDA runs too long at 2:00. It is rated R for "sexuality/nudity and language"
and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes