To regular readers of WtD it is not news that I see a lot of movies. I like going to the movies, and I'm really not that picky about the films themselves. It takes a lot to make me dislike a movie.
Having said that, it also takes a lot to make me love a movie. It seems the older I get, the harder I am to impress; movies don't seem as thrilling and as moving and as completely involving as they did when I was younger. I'm not sure what that is about, but most of the time, I leave the theater with a half smile and a that-was-okay shrug, ready to get on with my business. I confess that it is always a little disappointing when the unspoken promise of the darkened house lights is undelivered and a movie does no more than simply entertain me for a couple of hours, but I manage.
Today was an exception. We saw Biutiful with Javier Bardem, and it was completely gratifying to me-- I loved it. In an interview with NPR, the director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, explains that the film is a tragedy and defends its darkness:
...tragedy has some rules and those rules is about somebody who will be hit by destiny in every angle.
And while he is falling down, free-fall, how this character, with dignity, will find a way to redeem himself, to find light, to find a verticality in his existence and put everything together. That's what tragedy's about. And this film is that. It's an exercise. From "Medea" to "King Lear," to "Macbeth," it's just that this guy is not a king.
Don't be put off by the bleak premise. Biutiful is a smart, empathetic movie that addresses desperation and morality in the world today, and Javier Bardem's performance is stunning.