Last Friday night I decided to give the new Salma Hayek movie "Frida" a chance. While I already knew certain facts about the life of the volatile Mexican painter, I had my doubts as to the validity of the film, as the hype had been so obvious since its debut a couple of months ago.
While I applaud Salma Hayek's interest in bringing Frida's story to life, the movie was a total disappointment. Superficial in the extreme, the filmmakers seem to think that to give the characters depth, they have to utter a couple of philosophical lines, and then be done with it. Of Diego Rivera's socialist leanings, the script has him shout "?Viva la Revoluci?n!" a couple of times, or engage in some sort of argument with Antonio Banderas (!), just to then arbitrarily focus on his womanizing and cruelty as a husband. No one argues that this was also a part of Rivera's life. But it also doesn't give us a full glimpse into the fascinating, contradictory life of one of Mexico's greatest artists -- it merely settles for scratching the surface.
Alfred Molina, who plays Rivera, does justice to his limited role, and in fact, he's the best thing in the movie. Hayek tries to inject whatever ounce of drama she can into what often seems like just a cartoon of the real Frida, and comes out of the whole enterprise as an actress who may at some point show real range. Yet, her performance falls short too many times.
The first couple of scenes where she portrays the fiery young artist before her accident are laughable. The whole "small town" feel is nothing more than a B-Movie set with a couple of extras. And the by-the-numbers music score by Elliot Goldenthal is full of more clich?s than I've heard in any soundtrack as of late, complete with pseudo-Mexican instrumental themes.
Limited resources will never be a deterrent to make a good film, though, and I appreciate the filmmakers' attempt at producing one. Yet I truly believe that, for all the publicity this film carries, it should live up to the standards set by those who hype it. Sadly, that is not the case here.
As it stands, "Frida" is another failed example of moviemaking that, when put through the Hollywood machine, comes out the other end lacking what Frida and Rivera always knew about their art: It needs to come from the heart.
Carlos I. Cuevas:
Carlos I. Cuevas is a writer and producer currently living in Miami, FL.