I thought we’d go out with a bang on our last movie because our Based on a True Story Month has had mixed results – and not one, but two appearances by my least favourite Franco brother.
I consider this movie to be the Queen of all biographies, a labour of love (in getting the film made) and a remarkable story rolled into one. With a powerhouse performance from one of the most enigmatic women in the world – playing one of the most fierce and fascinating women of all time.
Bring it on.
Prepare to be seduced.
A biography of artist Frida Kahlo, who channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage into her work.
Starring: Salma Hayek • Alfred Molina • Geoffrey Rush
We meet Frida (Salma Hayek) just before the horrifying events of the accident that saw her seriously injured – and plaqued by constant pain for the rest of her life. She’s a rebel girl for sure – and the tram crash that results in her being impaled by a metal pole doesn’t stop her – but it does shape her future in good and bad ways.
While bedridden and in full-body plaster, Frida begins to doodle on her cast – her father brings her a canvas on which to transfer her artwork. She becomes pretty good I guess (spoiler: I fucking love her work) and remembering an encounter with artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) just before the accident, Frida finds him to ask him what he thinks of her art.
Unsurprisingly, Diego is blown away by the artwork and by the woman herself – and the two quickly become comrades in art. Diego’s belief in her talent is what keeps her going. Romance and then marriage quickly follows the friendship, though Diego is honest about his shortcomings, telling Frida that he will never be able to stay monogamous. She demands loyalty, if not fidelity – and he agrees.
Both our lovers take on other lovers. Frida being bisexual enjoys liasions with both men and women. At one point she has an affair with a woman also shagging Diego at the same time. The marriage is tempestuous and is tested further when the pair travel to NYC for a commission of Diego’s mural work. The mural, Man at the Crossroads, is destroyed when the Rockefeller Center’s patron, Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton) asks the artist to compromise his communist vision. At the same time Frida suffers a miscarriage and her mother passes away.
I won’t got through this scene by scene but when the pair return to Mexico, Diego fucks it all up by sleeping with Frida’s sister Cristina (Mía Maestro). Frida kicks him out and the pair are only reunited (not romantically) when Frida agrees to put up Russian politician Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife, who have been granted political asylum in Mexico.
But when Frida and Trotsky start an affair of their own – he is forced back home and into the path of potential danger to protect his marriage. Diego takes this affair hard, claiming to be broken hearted and Frida travels to Paris. When Trotsky is inevitably murdered, Diego becomes chief suspect and Frida is incarcerated in his place.
The film takes us to the end of Frida’s life, without Diego and then with, as they remarry and see out the rest of her days together. This film is so beautiful, seamlessly melding some of Kahlo’s most stunning real life works into film scenes. There are little flights of artistic fancy, stop motion animation and illustration – and it’s truly stunning.
The performances are flawless, Hayek is particularly mesmerising and she’s the perfect actress to play Frida. Although I don’t know as much about the real Kahlo as I should, I think she nails the artist’s steely determination and her fire perfectly. Frida’s talent is seriously something else, her paintings channel all the pain and anguish of her life and makes it beautiful.
I think this film is wonderful. I would have loved more girl on girl action but that’s not a criticism per se. I’d say that about most films. Make every character gay – looking at you Captain Marvel and Valkyrie.
I also like how it examines the institution of marriage and the idea of monogamy. While Frida isn’t someone you’d expect to take the traditional route, her decision to marry Diego despite his honesty is seen as radical, maybe it was.
⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐