Title: Broken Embraces
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, language and some drug material
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is a man who knows what he wants. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we have no idea what that is.
In his latest artsy offering, actress Penelope Cruz is just as confused as we are. Should she stay with her ugly, rich old sugardaddy and have sex with him 6+ times a day? Or should she shack up with the artsy middle-aged dude who lost his eyesight and his career and uses his blindess to pick up chicks?
Well, considering that this flick is one giant ego-stroke on the part of the director, it's no surprise that she shacks up with the artsy guy, because everybody knows that Art is King--which brings us to the very artful, but totally incoherent and unintelligible narrative.
The plot is as warped and fractured as a broken fun-house mirror, hopping around, willy-nilly, between the present day and the 1990s. The male lead (credited as Lluis Homar, but I'll be damned if it's not Kelsey Grammer!) is Harry Caine, a writer and former film director who lost his sight in a car crash. He lives with his ugly former agent and her dimwitted adult son. A fruity young stranger shows up at Caine's house, completely out of the blue, and demands that the former director collaborate with him on a film. He is the son of a deceased millionaire named Ernesto Martel, who had a mistress named Magdalena, played by a frequently topless Penelope Cruz. Sinister music lets us know that this is an important part of the plot, and that secrets from Caine's past are about to kick him square in the ass.
The film flashes back to the early Nineties, where Magdalena is known as "Lena," a secretary for Ernesto Martel. She is also a part time call-girl, and the sleazy Martel knows it. She initially refuses to sleep with him, but Martel, who looks just like Mr. Magoo, manages to get his greasy paws on her by paying her dying father's hospital bills. Then we're transported to the mid-Nineties where Harry Caine is known as Mateo Blanco. Lena has grown tired of being a whore for old Moneybags, and she lands a starring role in a film by Mateo Blanco. Sparks fly between Lena and Mateo, and they practically devour each other's flesh every time they're alone together. Martel is the film's producer, which complicates matters even more.
The rich old bastard becomes obsessed with Lena, and forces his fruity son to follow Lena and Mateo around with a video camera. Then he hires a professional lip-reader to transcribe everything they say. Lena constantly describes Martel as a monster and plots her escape with Mateo Blanco. Jealously and rage consume Martel, and he sets out to destroy the happy couple with every means at his disposal. Back in the present day, some deep confessions and cathartic moments bore us, in the audience, to tears, but provide the main characters with some much-needed psychic relief.
The ending credits were like rescuing angels in the Hell that was watching this film.
Things of Note:
Since it was supposed to be kind of a "film within a film", I think it would have been more interesting if the lead actor actually portrayed Kelsey Grammer, and had lots of homages to Frazier Crane--like a scene in the Cheers bar, with Roz, Daphne, and Penelope Cruz gettin it on.
Penelope Cruz was engaging as usual, but I was a little disappointed with her breasts. They almost upstaged her, and that's just unprofessional.
The old dude was effectively creepy, and was convincing as a charmingly lecherous leading man.
2 out of 5 Wonks. The cinematic equivalent of a deflated Whoopie-cushion.