Frida

Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas
Director: Julie Taymor

Movies about painters usually chart the more well known artists but it is very rare that a movie comes along which charts an artist whose paintings are well known but not a lot is known about the artist. It might even be more surprising to know that the artist is also a woman. Now, can you name more than three famous women painters?

Full of life and enjoying what it has to offer, Frida Kahlo’s (Salma Hayek) life comes crashing down around her when she is seriously injured in a bus accident. The doctors predict that the once feisty 16 year-old will never walk again. Frida’s broken body is covered from neck to toe in a body cast and is also operated on in an attempt to heal her shattered bones. Through boredom, she draws on her body cast. Her father supports her new interest by buying paints and installing a mirror above her bed so that she can see what she’s painting. A while later, she surprises everyone by walking again.

Armed with her paintings she seeks out renowned artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) for a professional critique. Diego is not only impressed with her paintings but also falls for Frida as well. They eventually get married – something Frida’s mother disapproves of.

What Frida wasn’t expecting was for Diego’s ex-wife to move into the spare upstairs apartment. They eventually become friends and talk at length about Diego’s infidelity, something both women have come to expect.

In 1930, Diego is commissioned to paint murals in various cities in the United States. The couple are the darlings of the social world and enjoy the rewards it brings especially all the affairs they find themselves in. During the trip, Frida discovers she is pregnant but Diego is worried that Frida’s body won’t be able to handle the pregnancy. Diego’s concerns are proved right as Frida suffers a miscarriage and releases her pain through paintings. While still in New York and longing to go back to Mexico, she gets a telegram that her mother is dying and stays in Mexico until the funeral.

Upon Frida’s return to New York, she finds Diego in the middle of a dispute with the Rockefeller Center over a controversial mural he has created which includes the image of the Communist Lenin. Diego refuses to change his art and Rockefeller destroys the mural and the Mexican couple return back to their homeland. Even though they move to a new location Diego is still depressed by the way he was treated in the States. He doesn’t help things either by having an affair with Frida’s sister and the couple separate.

Usually this sort of subject matter is not the most interesting but due to a great cast and a visually interesting and sometimes Arthouse approach where some scenes blend into Frida’s work, you know that you are on to something special, particularly as Frida’s work is recognisable. Hayek spent years waiting for the part to become available to her and it is hard to imagine anybody else in the role. With cameo roles by Antonio Banderas and Edward Norton, this is an entertaining biography movie with heart.

4 out of 6 stars

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