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Sunday, November 24, 2002

On Saturday I finally went to see Frida, even though it’s playing at one of my least favorite cinemas, the Metro. The Metro’s one of those throw-back ‘80s-style multiplexes where each of the individual screening rooms is no bigger than a large living room. The Cinerama it ain’t.

The movie was just about what I expected. A relatively faithful retelling of Frida Kahlo’s life story, with some decent acting, a lot of business in the directing—some of it successful, and some bisexual thrills. (It’s interesting to check out Metacritic’s aggregation of Frida reviews; opinions vary from sublime to banal.)

Julie Taymor is a very theatrical movie director, and sometimes the artiness of Frida strayed into the realm of self-consciousness. Still, it felt appropriate that a biopic of an innovative, creative artist should be arty and somewhat creative. If you know the story of Frida Kahlo’s life, you’re sort of waiting in dread for the horrendous injury to strike, but Taymor treats it extremely sensitively—so no need to cover your eyes.

Salma Hayek was awesome—conveying both physical and emotional pain very effectively yet subtly, and convincingly passionate. I’d heard about the famous kiss with Ashley Judd (I didn’t realize until I was just looking at the official site that Judd was playing Tina Modotti), but she was fearlessly present in all the girl-on-girl scenes. (Of course, she’s done them before, most recently in Time Code.)

Alfred Molina turned in a good, understated performance as Diego Rivera, having done a Robert De Niro and piled on a few pounds for the role. I must say, though, I don’t understand why he keeps getting “accent parts” in U.S. films. Molina was born and bred in London. Why is an Englishman—albeit one whose parents were Spanish and Italian—always being cast as a “foreigner” with an accent? He’s played Russian (Letter to Brezhnev), Greek (Eleni and Before and After), Iranian (Not Without My Daughter), Belgian (Murder on the Orient Express), Cuban (The Perez Family—a surprisingly good film), French (Chocolat), and many more in movies that I haven’t seen judging from his Internet Movie Database filmography. I know that when a movie set in a non-English-speaking country is performed in English, it’s an advantage comprehension-wise and from the director’s point of view to have English-speaking actors putting on accents, but surely sometimes there’s someone who’s at least the right ethnicity available. If I were a Latino actor, I’d be pissed that this Brit keeps coming over and getting the good gigs. Then again, if I were a Latino actor, I’m not sure how happy I’d be that Spaniards keep coming over and getting the plum parts—Javier Bardem and Antonio Banderas are no more qualified to play Latin Americans than Alfred Molina. Bonus Alfred Molina question: What does Alf have in common with Ralph Fiennes and John Thaw (ignore the fact that Thaw recently died)? Answers in the comments please.