Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Foreign (with sub-titles)
Opens locally on Friday, February 4th, 2011 (playing exclusively at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak)
Run Time: 2 hours, 27 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Eduardo Fernandez, Blanca Portillo
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel)
Few foreign, sub-titled movies find their way into American theatres, and that's a shame considering that most people have never seen or heard of "Biutiful", the latest from skilled director Alejandro Inarritu. The film has recently been nominated for 2 Academy Awards, for Best Foreign Film (from Mexico), and Best Actor for Javier Bardem, and both nominations are well deserved. "Biutiful" is a tragic and often too-real tale of a man in an impossible position, facing overwhelming odds. It also blends in a touch of the super-natural, and the result is a movie not just beautiful...but powerful.
The Plot. Uxbal (Bardem) is a father of two small children living in a Barcelona slum. He is separated from his wife, whom he shares a complex relationship with. Although he is a devoted father, Uxbal is also involved in some questionable businesses, and earns a living mostly from these illegal undertakings. He has always had a special connection with the dead as well...he is able to sometimes communicate with a recently deceased spirit to help it find peace and move on. Ironically, it is Uxbal who is forced to find his own peace, when he is informed that he only has a few months left to live. He desperately clings to his life just as a spirit would...not ready to enter the next phase of his reality.
On-Screen Beauty. Despite the super-natural touches, the movie is portrayed in a raw and realistic manner that is flawlessy, masterfully handled by Inarritu...never turning the movie into science fiction. Each shot has a poetic structure, and most every emotion in the film hinges on the performance of Bardem...a peformance very worthy of Oscar praise and perhaps the most complex performance of all Academy Award nominees this year.
Beauty within. The movie is at it's best...well, from beginning to end. It may not be a movie for everyone...it is tragic for sure, and painfully sad as we see what we feel to be a good man who just faces an uphill battle at every turn. The complexities of his family...from his kids to his wife to his aloof brother, are a joy to watch unfold. The movie has a somber tone, and dare I use the word "predictable"...but once again I fight that it is not bad to know the outcome if the journey itself is fascinating. Here, we kind of guess the outcome, but we wish for a way out...much like Uxbal. He loves his children and has nowhere to turn for help...what will they do without him?
Uxbal struggles to get his affairs in order in the short time he has left, but his biggest fear isn't of dying, it's of not being remembered. Movies like this force us to question our own humanity, and the idea of being irrelevent I would think is a universal fear. By the time late in the film where he finally shares his pain, he doesn't beg for life, he begs for remembrance...and if you aren't beggin for a kleenex by film's end, well, you may want to check your pulse.
So for the direction, and for the great performance by Bardem, seek out "Biutiful", a film that is beautiful in the way a funeral memorial is "beautiful"...It connects, it penetrates, and it delivers on multiple levels, even if it is all the while a sad and painful experience.
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