Monday, February 28, 2011


The Barcelona Visitors Bureau can't be too happy about the film Biutiful, nominated for best foreign language film. I saw it in Murrietta last week - 2 1/2 hours of suffering, sadness, misery, cancer and death - dead children, weeping widows. Not exactly the Barcelona I saw as I was peering out from the dining rooms of great restaurants. Only once is a glimpse of La Sagrada Familia included in the bleak, gritty landscape the director chose to see through his camera.

This is a dark story of illegal immigration, corrupt policy, traffickers, drug dealing. Javier Bardeem plays Uxmal,  a middle man in the dark underbelly of the city, moving illegals from job to job, placating and bribing police, collecting and distributing money. A fascinating character, he is a psychic and "reads" the recently dead. He's dying of cancer, his estranged wife is a manic-depressive alcoholic drug addict (it doesn't get any worse) and he attempts pitifully to parent his two young children while juggling the threats and life and death dangers inherent in his work.

There are far too many stories introduced - the film is 2 1/2 hours long - and these relationships splash onto the screen and then just slide off. In most cases, you're happy the stories end before you can get engaged.

Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

Javier Bardeem's acting is fantastic as always. He seems to be particularly good at playing to suffering and misery. I read that he did "Eat, Pray, Love" directly after this film. What a relief it must have been to shed Uxmal, fly to Bali and the sun, cavorting with Julia Roberts for a couple of months. Like another planet. Even if the film they made is mediocre, the Bali interval must have served as a wonderful antidote.


  1. thanks, Helen for the critique. I think I'll pass. Biutiful sounds pretty darn ugly. But I love Javier Bardem (not just because we share a name) but he's such a great actor.

  2. Yes, Javier is great - not quite great enough to make up for all the misery in this film. Watching it did force me to put my so-called problems in a new perspective. Are your March film picks posted yet?