Friday, January 19, 2007
Those who have seen any of Pedro Almodovar's films before would likely know what to expect heading into Volver. Yet as in any Almodovar mellodrama (and lets face it, he does mellodrama better than anyone) all expectations might as well be thrown out the window. In the end Almodovar winds up spinning a story, and gettting better performances out of his actors than could have been imagined. And 100 minutes later I am leaving the theater more touched by the film and story that I anticipated being when I walked in.
To even attempt summarize the plot of Volver is a daunting task. There is Ramiunda, her sister Sole, and Ramiunda's teenage daughter, Paula. These three are close and the bonds of family are explored in depth throughout the movie. There closeness is tried, or pushed closer by the death of their Aunt Paula, a murder of Ramiunda's lover and Paula (not Aunt Paula's) father Paco. Then there is the appearance of Ramiunda and Sole's mother Irene, who is believed to be dead from dying in her husbands arms in a fire. As far as an Almodovar plot goes, none of this seems to out of the ordinary.
Penelope Cruz plays Ramiunda and gives a better performance than I have ever seen her give. Though, it's safe to say she wasn't exactly an actress that had me running towards the ticket counters before but here she was just superb. The rest of the cast is superb as well, especially Carmen Maura, who plays Irene.
In many reviews I have read since last night it is pointed out how all the men in this film are painted as scoundrels, sexual predators, or cheaters. Looking back over the film that is a true and fair assesment. However, while watching the film was so caught up in the story, and so tuned into the lives of these women, I didn't see it as a sweeping generalization of all men. Sure, Paco was a heartless deadbeat. And what we here of Irene's husband, Ramiunda and Sole's father, is not life affirming, to say the least. But, throughout the movie all that paled in comparison to the relationships of these women.
It would be too easy though, to characterize Volver as a chick flick. Elements of dark humor go on throughout the story. And, Almodovar pounds us over the head with one revelatiion or plot twist after another making the film seem to never lose pace. Each of these twists cranks up teh mellodrama one more notch, but at no time does this seem forced or contrived in the way that most chick flicks are characterized as.
Volver, I am told, roughly translates as "to return." The overaching themes of forgiveness, living with the dead, and most of all love of family all require at the least a look back and more likely a return. While, at least for me, this didn't pack the emotional weight and the "wow" factor of my favorite Almodovar film, Talk to Her, it is still one of my favorites of his. And in the end, one that I want to experience again, very soon.