Movie Review: Broken Embraces

Movie Review: Broken Embraces

Summary: A film within a film, a writer and director, Harry Caine / Mateo Blanco, is caught up in obsession, jealousy and sabotage.

Published November 15, 2009

brokenembracesSummary : A film within a film, a writer and director, Harry Caine / Mateo Blanco, is caught up in obsession, jealousy and sabotage. After falling for a woman with a rich husband who is financing his film, his life is changed after an accident. It takes him 14 years to discover the truth.

Review : For those who are not familiar with Pedro Almodovar , the director of Broken Embraces , he is as important as Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee (Almodovar's films dates back further than Tarantino and Lee). Movies like All About My Mother and Bad Education are legendary for their quirky styles, immaculate acting and decadent story lines. Almodovar's films are like unwrapping a gift within a gift, the audience never knows what to expect, and the actual gift rarely disappoints.

Unfortunately, Almodovar's most mainstream film to date, Broken Embraces, loses its way with a heap of disposable characters and knot-filled plots: a sickly father, a gay son, a drugged-out teen, an aspiring actress, an obsessed lover, disability, "who's the baby's daddy?" and more.  Sure, Almodovar's movies have always required a certain amount of work to follow, but Broken Embraces has too many broken holes to thoroughly enjoy the core premise, which is quite typical -- a jealous husband gets revenge on his youthful wife after she finds a younger and sexier man. You could get that storyline any afternoon on Lifetime Television .

Luckily, Broken Embraces is filled with compensatory qualities. Almodovar's wit, sarcasm and morbid sense of humor are irresistible. The off-the-wall dialogue is redeeming when you are not exactly sure where the movie is headed. Furthermore, the actors jump right into the campy but classy roles, delivering performances that are award-worthy. Oscar winner Penelope Cruz , who is on her fourth Almodovar flick, has no remains of her other characters in All About My Mother or Volver . Cruz is radiant on the screen, perfectly playing up Almodovar’s ode to films of the 1940s and 1950s.

Stylistically, Broken Embraces is beautiful, which is no shocker considering the movie is his biggest budget to date and Almodovar's taste level is impeccable. Nonetheless, what is most disappointing about Broken Embraces is the ho-hum ending. Almodovar is known for edgy and unexpected twists, right when you think he will pull it together, you are left with the common and ordinary.

Like Tarantino and Lee, when filmmakers who were once-upon-a-time risqué achieve too much success, the art takes a blow. Can a filmmaker, musician, or actor continue to be raw and edgy when they are critically acclaimed and earning millions? In no ways is Broken Embraces a bad film, but it certainly ranks low on his list of brilliant pieces of art. That said, Almodovar at his worst is still genius.

Broken Embraces is in theaters Friday, November 20.

Written by Clay Cane


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