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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Frida

Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina
Director: Julie Taymor
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Drama

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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

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