Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Spain, 2009. Universal Pictures International, Canal+ Espana, El Deseo, Instituto de Credito Oficial, Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Lanzarote Reserva de Biosfera, Ministerio de Cultura, Television Espanola. Screenplay by Pedro Almodovar. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. Produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Esther García. Music by Alberto Iglesias. Production Design by Antxon Gomez, Víctor Molero. Costume Design by Sonia Grande. Film Editing by José Salcedo. Cannes Film Festival 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009. Toronto International Film Festival 2009.
Pedro Almodovar’s genius arrow hits below his usual target in this involving but not quite compelling melodrama. Lluís Homar is undecipherable as a blind screenwriter who recounts, to his young assistant, a story of his younger days when, sighted and a successful screenwriter, he had a love affair with a sexy actress (Penelope Cruz). She was the mistress of a ruthless millionaire, her personal involvement with him motivated by dire family circumstances and the need to succeed. The plot is pure soap opera, showing off Almodovar’s familiar ability to take a Jackie Collins plot and mine all the rich emotion it could possibly have, including inspiration from daytime soap opera as well as from the likes of the films of Bunuel (shades of Belle De Jour and Viridiana abound). He even includes inspiration from his own films, which fans will delight in, but his plotting goes on longer than necessary and the secrets revealed by the carefully peeled story are never quite as surprising or interesting as they promise to be. Cruz is stunning in the lead, while the magnificent Blanca Portillo shines in a rich supporting role as Homar’s production manager. Look for marvelous small bits by Lola Dueñas and Ángela Molina, and cameos by Almodovar regulars Chus Lampreave, Kiti Mánver, the fabulous Rossy de Palma and scenes that are reworkings of his own first international success, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.