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This Week's Movie ReviewBiutiful
Five stars

POSTED BY MICHAEL A. SMITH, February 3, 2011    Share

NOTE: For readers expecting to see a review of "Sanctum" I apologize. The Blizzard of 2011, as it is being referred to here, dropped 21 inches of snow on Kansas City the night of the screening, causing the theatre to close early.

Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez and Hanaa Bouchaib
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 27 minutes
Roadside Attractions

Javier Bardem first came to most moviegoer’s attention when he earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in “Before Night Falls.” Three years ago he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in the Coen Brothers “No Country for Old Men.” Now, with another Best Actor nomination for “Biutiful,” Bardem proves himself to be one of the finest actors now working in any language.

Barcelona. Uxbal (Bardem) is a man of many talents. He is currently running interference with the local authorities for an almost international collection of activities. His Chinese friends make bootleg purses and DVDs in one part of town. In another, his African connections try to sell these goods in the streets, trying to stay one step ahead of the law. He is also farming out undocumented workers to a major construction project. And, on the side, he talks to the dead. When he’s not working on these various enterprises he is raising his two children, Ana (Bouchaib) and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella), the best he can while trying to avoid his ex wife, Marambra (Alvarez). She claims to still love him but not enough to stay out of his brother Tito’s (Eduard Fernandez) bed. His life has been one long hustle for as long as he can remember. When he suddenly finds out he has cancer he must now plan ahead for his family while at the same time trying to find redemption.

Directed with the same unflinching lens he used in films like “21 Grams” and “Babel,” “Biutiful” helps establish Inarritu as one of the premier Mexican filmmakers working today matched only, in my opinion, by Guillermo del Toro, who actually serves as one of the films’ producers. He is not afraid to look into the hearts and souls of his characters, showing both us and them things they could not know existed. The cast is outstanding, led by Bardem in a performance that has already won him the Best Actor award at the last Cannes Film Festival. His handsome face almost a frozen mask, it is with his eyes that Bardem expresses the happiness of being with his children and the grief that tears at him when a seemingly kind gesture has a fatal outcome. The dialogue is in Spanish but you only need study his face to understand the story, surely the sign of a great actor.

The film is beautifully photographed, with the camera catching Barcelona at both its shining best and unflinching worse. The musical score, by Oscar winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla (“Babel,” “Brokeback Mountain”) perfectly captures the moods portrayed on screen. “Biutiful” is also Oscar nominated as Best Foreign Language film, an award it richly deserves.

This Week's Movie Review of "Biutiful" is ©2011 by Mike Smith. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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