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"Frida" Be, You and Me

2003-04-25 - 10:27 a.m.

Have you seen "Frida?"

If not, here's why you should go see (or rent) this Selma Hayek movie about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

1. If you don't know who Frida was, it'll educate you and make you want see some of her paintings. If you do already know who she is, it'll tell you things about her life you didn't know, like the fact that she did the nasty with Leon Trotsky.

2. If you are a straight guy or a gay lady, you will enjoy all the naked titas. (Kahlo, though married to the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, sometimes liked to get it on with ladies).

3. There are some great artistic flourishes, like Frida's hallucinations (animated bythe Brothers Quay) after waking up from the tragic trolley accident that left her permanently scarred and crippled. These flourishes include creative cinematography and very appealing uses of color and costume. The filmmakers make Khalo's paintings come to life (literally), sometimes showing us things in Frida's tangible world--like a dress on a clothesline, flapping in the breeze--and how they find their ways into the surreal world of her paintings.

4. It will introduce Kahlo to the masses perhaps for the first time, doing justice to her art and her amazing life story in the process. I have known of Kahlo and her art since I was in high school, but I mistakenly assumed her to be a brooding, "Serious Artiste" type who liked to sit alone in dark rooms and brood. Instead, Hayek plays her as a drinking, dancing, cussing, colorful woman--and upon a little research, I learned that this was indeed the way Kahlo lived her life.

5. The love story between Khalo and Rivera, and in fact the entire movie, create the overwhelming feeling of hope--despite the fact that Kahlo's life was actually quite tragic.

And now, here's why you might not like it once you get there:

1. Sometimes, the movie seems like it should've been called "Diego" instead of "Frida." Or maybe "Frida: Diego Rivera's Wife." Of course, those who know a bit about art history know that Rivera's success did indeed overshadow Kahlo's, and this is pointed out more than once in the film. Unfortunately, it seems like this movie perpetuates that problem.

2. This is a sort of sub-point of #1, but Frida's life as an artist is very much played down in contrast to her life as Rivera's wife. You see her struggle with Diego's womanizing, but you don't hear a word of her own artistic thoughts or ambitions. You see shots of Frida painting in bed when she's recovering from the accident, but after that moment, it seems like the few shots of Frida at the easel are almost tossed in as an afterthought.

3. Many themes are brought up quickly and dramatically-her bisexuality, her drug use, her miscarriages (which in real life actually happened more than once)-but are frustratingly under-explored or not fully executed.

4. Overall, it's too Hollywood-y. I only have three words for you, and they should do the job: Ashley motha-fuckin'Judd.

Ok, sorry, more than three words: there is absolutely no fucking reason Ashley Judd should have a role in this movie, and, on a greater scale, her being cast in the movie is representative of the movie's flaws overall. Granted, it's a small part, but when you see Diego and Frida and their friends dancing and drinking tequila and talking radical politics, it's like an embarrassing anachronism to see Ashley Judd and her skeletal frame trying to fit into the party. And she compounds the problem by doing an exceptionally sucky acting job. El Jefe leaned over and whispered that her Mexican accent sounded Swedish.

Another awful Hollywood-y stamp: it's a movie set mostly in Mexico, about two very famous Mexicans, and, by golly, everyone in Mexico is speaking English! How convenient! Of course, the only Spanish slips out when someone cusses. You know, because at least we Americans know what mierta means.

As you can see, I'm the nerdy kind who wishes for subtitles to lend authenticity, but I do realize that if this movie hadn't had the Hollywood-y touches, it never would've gotten made.

Overall I give major props to Hayek for fighting to get the movie into production. Sometimes she bugs me in a way I can't quite put my finger on--like she's just a little too "miss cutie-pants" sometimes to be convincing, I guess--but everyone I went to the movie with disagreed, (my mother going as far as saying Hayek "carried the whole film.") Most of all, it left me with a growing fascination about Kahlo, her amazing art, and her dramatic, inspiring life story.

If you'd like, read a review by someone who does it better than me.



Maybe I'm unfairly stereotyping, but don't most construction guys seem a bit more´┐Ż.masculine than this?

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