Though Frida is easier to swallow than Julie Taymor’s preposterous Titus, the eye candy here lacks considerable brio. A magical realist’s trolley accident leaves 18-year-old Frida Khalo (Slama Hayek) a victim of body horrors for the next 29 years. Frida and Diego Rivera (a remarkable Alfred Molina) meet soon after. They discuss politics, get married and take their communist revelry to Rockefeller’s New York City. More unfortunate than the film’s risk-free, straightforward approach is that you’re likely to learn more about Diego “panzon” Rivera (his politics, his inspirations, his drinking and his many women) than his Fridocha. Taymor brings Khalo’s paintings to life via a series of ravishing surrealist flourishes. But the problem is that Taymor conceptualizes art as a point of departure, modeling events in Frida’s life after her paintings rather than the other way around. With the exception of one horrifying sequence in which Frida miscarries, there’s no real sense of how the painter’s lifelong physical and emotional pains informed her art, let alone how the horrifying trolley accident changed her life. Indeed, the Frida portrayed here is already gender-bending before her accident and way before meeting Diego Rivera and his circle of art-world friends, which include muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (Antonio Banderas) and photographer Tina Modotti (Ashley Judd mistaking Russian for Spanish). Taymor and her four credited screenwriters have done their research, and as such Frida has flavor to burn. Chavela Vargas’s Mexican anthem “Llorona” figures fabulously atop a montage depicting Frida’s final days. Sadly, Taymor tames and fetishizes Frida’s acts of retaliation—sure, the film’s lesbian scenes are sexy, if not wholly daring by Hollywood standards, yet they’re strangely depoliticized. Taymor moves through a room like Fincher, shoots Mexico with primary colors borrowed from Jodorowsky and takes to Frida’s operating table by way of the Brothers Quay. Frida is pretty to look at but Taymor’s toys and passive subjectivity seem best suited for the stage.
- Julie Taymor
- Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas
- Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton, Valeria Golino, Mía Maestro, Roger Rees, Saffron Burrows
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