"Broken Embraces" didn't get the usual Pedro Almodovar love from critics out of this year's Cannes Film Festival. Yet another film with his favorite leading lady and best buddy Penelope Cruz, the picture was an afterthought to the more serious contenders at the French festival such as "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet." With awards season and a whole other continent of critics some thought the picture's buzz could turnaround at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
And then again...
It's not that "Broken Embraces" isn't an entertaining film with good things going for it. The picture is filled with the cinema noir nods that Almodovar loves and has some seriously funny one liners only the filmmaker can make work, but "Broken" is not up there with some of his recent classics such as "All About My Mother" and "Volver." Even "Bad Education" was more daring in its structure and noir leanings than "Embraces" turns out to be.
What "Embraces" really feels like is a star vehicle for Cruz, but without enough Cruz in it. Her character mostly exists in flashbacks as the modern day storyline centers around a blind screenwriter played by Lluis Homar. The Spanish actor worked with Almodovar previously in "Education," but he seems miscast here. Because their chemistry feels one-sided, it's hard for the audience to believe Cruz's character would be so passionate about him so the picture stalls whenever it centers completely on his storyline (the bad hairpiece for the flashbacks might not help either).
Cruz has been on a roll lately with "Volver" and her Oscar-winning turn in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" and Almodovar certainly knows how to bring out the best in her. But is this another Oscar-nominated performance for her? You wouldn't think so, but it is a really weak year. If she does ring one up, she won't be the favorite to win, but will find herself among the pantheon of Streep, Blanchett and Winslet -- whatever they do, they're pretty much in the race.
If you're a big Almodovar fan, "Embraces" won't disappoint. If not, it's certainly an entertaining few hours at the cinema.
"Broken Embraces" opens in limited release on Nov. 11.
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