Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All About My Mother

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
1999. Rated R, 101 minutes.
Cecilia Roth
Marisa Paredes
Penélope Cruz
Candela Péna
Antonia San Juan
Rosa Maria Serda

When you sit down to watch a film directed by Pedro Almodóvar, there are some things you should know. More than likely, it will heavily involve people in some form of entertainment, and someone desperately aspiring to break into the business. In this case, that’s a pair of stage actresses, a young would-be playwright and another would-be actress, though not so desperately aspiring in her case. There will be lots of secrets uncovered as we move along. Lastly, at least one of the characters will live what many consider an alternative lifestyle. Here, it’s a pre-op transsexual. He’s already got the boobs, but still has male plumbing. This character isn’t just a freak show, though that quality is certainly present, even made light of. This character is a constant reminder that things aren’t always what they seem. This is key because it ties back into the plethora of secrets.

We learn early that Manuela (Roth) is keeping a secret from her son. It’s about his absent father. Before she can tell him, he’s killed in a tragic accident. She then decides she needs to confront her past and goes looking for her ex.

As the story unfolds, each character we meet has their own major issues to deal with. Being the only mother in the group, Manuela becomes the one all others lean on. This provides an interesting dynamic between her and her odd circle of friends. In typical Almodóvar fashion, this develops without rushing or dragging. This perfect pacing, along with the colorful characters and their dilemmas, keeps us intrigued.

In comparison to other movies I’ve seen by this director, this suffers from something others do not. It feels overpopulated and disjointed. An entire movie can be made about a number characters here and it would be a good one. All stuffed into this one, it feels like most of these people don’t quite get their just due. The potential even more depth than is present is unexplored.

Exactly like Almodóvar’s other films, he extracts excellent performances from his actors. Even throughout all the melodrama, they never seem to overdo it. Sour notes just aren’t hit. They elevate the material. Particularly outstanding is Cecilia Roth in the lead role. Her emotions effortlessly runs the gamut from depression to triumph and most stops in between.

In the end, the director’s pacing, the sharp dialogue and acting come together to make an enjoyable movie. I don’t think its quite on the same level as some of his other work. However, the mere fact it’s different yet still real, and not afraid of being so, makes it worthy of your attention.

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