Much like Pollock where Ed Harris decided he needed to play the famous painter, Jackson Pollock, and brought his life to the screen himself, Salma Hayek decided that she needed to play the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. Like Harris and Jackson Pollock, Hayek bears a strong physical resemblance to Kahlo. But that is where the similarities end. Pollock brought a gritty realism to the life of that painter while Frida shows a more surrealistic view of its subject. The best part of this film is the weaving of Kahlo's own paintings into the depiction of the painter's life. This style is helped by first-time director, Julie Taymor, best known for bringing the Lion King to Broadway.
The film, Frida, tells the story of the painter, Frida Kahlo (Hayek) starting when she was a teenager in Mexico City in the 1920's. She is almost killed in a horrific bus accident and spends months in bed convalescing. While there, she begins to paint. When she is back on her feet, she takes some of her work to a well known local artist, Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Needless to say, the two artists are soon in bed and in love, beginning a tumultuous relationship which will last the rest of Kahlo's life. As we follow Kahlo and Rivera through the Mexico City social whirl, we see a bunch of cameo performances of famous people played by big-time actors. These include Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) and Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton) as well as lesser lights played by Ashley Judd, Antonio Banderas, Valeria Golino, and Saffron Burrows. These characters come and go without much effect on the story. Judd has a nice scene where she dances the Tango with Kahlo. Roger Rees does a sweet turn as Kahlo's father. Hayek and Molina are perfect casting for their roles. Molina, a career character actor, gives the performance of his life in Frida.
Frida is best when it
is showing how Kahlo's art flowed from her life. But it is not so
good in telling the story of her life. The film concentrates on the
relationship between Kahlo and Rivera which is pure soap opera with both
spouses engaged in serial adultery. But Frida glosses over
the physical pain and suffering that Kahlo lived with resulting from the
bus accident. She was in and out of hospital all her short life and
just the act of painting was often difficult. We see this pain in
Kahlo's painting but we see little of it on the screen. Still, this
is a stylish, colorful film which most of the time looks like a painting.
It's definitely worth a look.