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  Film Reviews: Hairy, But Hollywood Hairy: Frida  

Wednesday, February 26
Hairy, But Hollywood Hairy: Frida
For all that you may or may not have known about Frida Kahlo, you probably know that Salma Hayek spent a lot of time struggling to get this film made and even more time convincing people that she could play Frida. Reasons for not making the film have nothing to do with a lack of an interesting story or captivating, larger-than-life characters – no, I imagine that it had everything to do with the two principal characters.

You see, for all of their fame and talent, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were not attractive people. Diego Rivera was a large, imposing figure largely regarded as fat and unattractive (this did not stop him from having numerous affairs). Frida Kahlo was not only partly crippled by polio and then a trolley accident, but also had a small hair problem. Her most pronounced feature was her thick eyebrow, but this was closely followed by a large nose and diminutive figure.

How to do this in Hollywood? I imagine several discussions at the highest levels in Hollywood went exactly the same way:

Exec: Lackey, you mean to tell me this woman was a famous artist, married to an even more famous artist, knew how to party, was a communist, and had an affair with Trotsky?

Lackey: Yes, among other things…

Exec: And Madonna collects her paintings?

Lackey: Yes, but she’s more important…

Exec: Shut up! The only other thing that I want to know is that you’re sure she was Mexican. I mean, I could do a film that would get me that newly cool Latino demographic?

Lackey: Well, I suppose.

Exec: And this artist, she’s very sexual so that could be some amazing nudity. But it’ll be artistic because she overcomes this great accident – special effects opportunity – in order to paint. It’ll appeal to both men and women with these things!

Lackey: Really, this is a story about an amazing artist with a wonderful gift. Julie Taymor has agreed to do the art direction; it will be about the art and not about you meeting a demographic. Look at this photo of Frida and Diego, they’re real people!

Exec: WHAT?!? You must be kidding – they’re completely unattractive. There’s no way this is getting made. And your attitude is most ungrateful lackey. What you need to do is get out of here – I will make it my life’s mission to make sure this film is never made!

And this is how it went for this film. Great story, amazing lives, amazing art and two principal characters that don’t look Hollywood. But then a very attractive – even by Hollywood standards – actress by the name of Salma Hayek decides that this film needs to be made.

Hyack stars as Frida, and is a decidedly attractive as Frida. This is one of the few hindrances to the film, as the attempt to grant Hyack the trademark single eyebrow comes across as a neatly coiffed accessory at times.

Julie Taymor’s art direction is brilliant turn. Taymor’s ability to grasp the brilliance of Frida’s artwork – that which is both beautiful and difficult to bear at the same time – and translate that to film is nothing short of genius. Even the disfiguring accident Frida suffers is a thing that you want to look away from but find yourself wanting to stare at the sheer beauty of it all. On the trolley, Frida discovers a passenger carrying gilding for the opera house ceiling. In the commotion of the accident with glass, wood and people falling everything settles on Frida’s badly broken body which has become an amazing array of blood, gold and silence.

The Usual:

What It’s Worth: Catch a matinee performance and enjoy a quick coffee at a bookstore so you can pick up Frida’s biography.

Annoying Theater Goer: The gigglers. I have no idea what was funny, I just know it had nothing to do with the film.

Main Reason To See This Film: This is the tale of one of those lives that was almost too amazing to have really been lived.

Main Reason Not To See This Film: Some cameos are too annoying for words. Additionally, if you’ve ever read or seen any of David Ives’ plays, you will find yourself uncontrollably chuckling as you remember his take on Trotsky’s death. Worse yet, some of the amazing Trompe-L’Oeil effects could potentially remind you of a bad Dabney Coleman film called “Where The Heart Is.” Then again, I’ve been accused of reaching cultural saturation in the last week.

MPAA Rating: R

Nudity: Yes.

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