Interesting, but underwhelming
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Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Julie Taymor
Running Time: 123 mins
Frida is an American film about the life of artist Frida Kahlo, from her lifelong crippling injuries to her dysfunctional marriage, and how those struggles contributed to her legendary work.
For an artist so internationally renowned and still acclaimed as Frida Kahlo (even I know her), you’d have thought that the film telling the story of her life would be a little bit more spectacular. While Frida does at least give an engaging account of the artist’s life, it comes across as a rather bog-standard biopic, without any real emotional intensity or artistic flair to match its subject.
Let’s start off on the bright side, though, with the fact that the film does tell an engaging true story, giving you the details about where Frida Kahlo came from, her marriage, and her battle with serious physical injuries throughout her life. So, for general audiences and those like me whose knowledge of artist they’ve heard of is lacking, this film fills in some gaps, and even does well to link Kahlo’s personal story with the wider political climate of pre-World War Two society.
Also, when it comes to learning about what sort of a woman Kahlo was, Salma Hayek’s lead performance is excellent. With the determination and strong on-screen presence to fully emulate Kahlo’s strong personality, she proves a convincing and equally likable lead throughout, doing the most to engross you as much as possible in the character, and come to understand why she became the artist everyone knows, and the person that many may not.
So, with a strong biographical narrative and an impressive lead performance, Frida does the job required as a.standard biopic. However, that’s about it, as the film comes off as a disappointingly bland and predictable watch, rather than bringing the story of Frida Kahlo to real life.
Telling the story of a painter with such a striking visual style, you would think that this film would make efforts to replicate that in its cinematography. While it does have the odd small vignette that takes you out of the real world and into somewhat more of a fantasy that’s at least visually resembles Kahlo’s artistic style, these are both too few and far between, and feel forced and jarring against the general flow of the film.
A bolder, more visually striking approach would have made a huge difference to the impact I felt from this film. Not only would it work to reduce the relatively generic biopic feel of the movie, but a more consistent presence of Kahlo’s style would have gone a long way in helping me to connect the events in her life with her ever more striking artworks.
And that’s the real disappointment of this film for me, that it doesn’t give you a real insight into how Frida Kahlo’s paintings really came to be the way they were. Most of the narrative’s focus is lent to her dysfunctional marriage, as well as her struggles with physical ailments over the years, but there’s very little insight into the intense emotional agony she felt that was then put onto canvas in such striking fashion.
As a result, while you get an insight into the developments of her personal life, the film really misses the mark when it comes to linking that in with how her work developed over the years, evidence of a fairly shallow screenplay that does little to make this film really stand out as the definitive story of Frida Kahlo.
Overall, I found some interest with Frida, thanks to its generally engaging biographical narrative and strong lead performance from Salma Hayek. However, the film really lacks the passion and spectacle of a truly striking biopic, failing to incorporate Kahlo’s legendary artistic style into the visuals, and proving underwhelming in its attempts to draw a connection between her personal life and the changing nature of her work, and that’s why I’m giving this film a 7.2 overall.