starring Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd
screenplay by Diane Lake and Gregory Nava and Clancy Sigal and Anna Thomas, based on the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera
directed by Julie Taymor
by Walter Chaw Wonderfully directed, beautifully shot, amazingly well production-designed, and yet dull, Julie Taymor's Frida is marked by an excellent performance from Alfred Molina and a screenplay (a collaboration of four writers--already a bad sign--with a shooting script ghost-written by its star's boyfriend, Edward Norton) that is a spider's breakfast of grandiloquent monologues, sweeping gestures, and tedious biopic conventions. Interesting for the Frida Kahlo devotee for its painstaking recreations and innovative, multi-media art design, Taymor's follow-up to her Stygian Titus is a technical triumph and an extraordinary bore. Perhaps realizing this, it relies on an unseemly amount of the kind of easy vulgarity that, when coupled with an arthouse draw, is mistaken for insouciance and courage. (Being the crudest girl in class is a pretty tired source for feminist uplift.) The picture is best when Taymor warps the medium, imagining parts of Kahlo's reality as her paintings come to life (a conceit used to similar effect, though superior rationale, in Eric Rohmer's The Lady and the Duke), the best of these coming in a post-trauma animated sequence that reminds of The Brothers Quay or Svankmajer in its stop-motion grotesquery. Hayek as the titular artist plays it loose and broad, Geoffrey Rush embarrasses himself as Trotsky, and Ashley Judd embarrasses everybody as a Mexican. Through it all, the most interesting character is Frida's philandering husband Diego, and the most interesting aspect of the picture is Taymor's visual sensibility--which, at the end of the day, is still not enough to salvage the pretentious little nothings that form Frida's centre.