Monday, February 21, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Biutiful

Biutiful
Number of Nominations: 2
Categories: Best Actor (Javier Bardem), Best Foreign Language Film (Mexico)
Availability in US: In Theatres (Click for Showtimes)
Trailer: Click for Trailer
From acclaimed Mexican writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros) comes one of his best films yet. Biutiful follows Uxbal who runs an underground business of illegal Chinese workers making designer knockoffs. When he is diagnosed with cancer, he tries to forge a reconciliation with his estranged wife so his children will have someone to care for them when he is gone.

Despite the criminal elements he is involved with, and his occasional angry outbursts, Bardem makes Uxbal a likeable and relatable character. Through his pain and anguish as he's dealing with his diagnosis, Bardem portrays a man desperate to hold his life together, a man who cares deeply for his children and his "employees."

Biutiful contains some of the key elements of many of Iñárritu's past films—drug use, main characters with sketchy pasts, non-chronological timelines—but it is actually much simpler than 21 Grams or Babel. Lacking the multiple interwoven plots that made those films either extremely engaging or extremely confusing depending on your point of view, Biutiful is much easier to follow but sacrifices some of the intrigue and excitement that accompanies those twisting plots. Still, it is probably evidence of a maturing filmmaker, as this film has greater emotional depth than some of Iñárritu's previous works.

Biutiful seems poised to win the Best Foreign Film award since it is the only film nominated which received a wide release in the U.S., and the only film in the category which has any other nominations. Of course, this was the prevailing wisdom I used last year to predict a win for Germany's The White Ribbon, and I was mistaken then. Javier Bardem seems unlikely to win his second Oscar. For one thing it may seem too soon after his win two years ago for No Country for Old Men. For another, he's up against Colin Firth in the best film of the year as well as breakout roles for James Franco and Jesse Eisenberg, so Bardem was barely on anyone's radar until his nomination (he even failed to garner nominations from the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, two of the big Oscar predictors).
Grade: A

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