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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Volver (2006)

Part zany telenovela, part classic Hollywood melodrama, Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Volver, is a sweet, funny film about mother-daughter relationships and the resiliency of women. Penelope Cruz plays Raimunda, a hard-working woman juggling a boorish, unemployed husband, a teenage daughter and an invalid aunt. She is also haunted by the deaths of her mother (Carmen Maura) and father in a tragic fire.

Raimunda’s troubles only grow when her husband takes a carving knife to the gut and bleeds out all over the kitchen floor. The scene in which Raimunda furiously mops up his blood is both horrifying and comic. In media res, Raimunda is interrupted by a neighbor at the front door. He notices a streak of blood on her neck and asks if she’s all right. “Women’s troubles,” she says with a smile. Boy, she’s not kidding.

Women’s troubles are, indeed, the theme throughout the film. Almodóvar focuses on the special kinship and friendship that exists between women in patriarchal, gender-separated societies. The details of the film, which include death, cancer, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, betrayal, parental abandonment and yes, more death, make it sound like one long dirge, but it’s not. Volver is upbeat without being flip and serious without being grim, making it an easy pill to swallow.

There has been a lot of Oscar buzz around Penelope Cruz this year, and after seen Volver I can say it is justified. Cruz exhibits a kind of raw, sensual performance reminiscent of Sophia Loren's early film work (Two Women, Il Segno di Venere) and her performance in Volver is very real and engaging. Almodóvar could have done a better job dubbing Cruz's voice for her titular musical number, though; the poor dubbing distracts from one of the film's big dramatic moments.

The amount of money I’d pay to see this film: $7


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