Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (“21 Grams”, “Babel”). His films are bleak, horrifically black, destructively depressive; the pain and angst of the protagonists is genuine, therein lies his genius.
Oh, how I wanted this film to be a winner and for the first hour I championed its success; comparable to watching your favorite team slowly fade from greatness to mediocrity, finally fated to failure. “Biutiful” lost and never found its reason for being.
Javiar Bardem (nominated in the Best Actor category, Academy Awards) plays Ixbal, a minor criminal with a bleeding heart and other extremities, a body racked with illness, two darling children craving the parental anchor: love and support. Mr. Bardem, a Goliath on the contemporary movie screen is blatantly brilliant in the role but cannot save the film from sinking, eventually drowning in obfuscation and obtuseness.
There are elements of Ixbal that are never defined; he is involved in employing and exploiting illegal immigrants; the manufacture of “knock off” products, drugs; imminently problematic was his role as a shaman, professional mourner, hired and paid to grieve, daven over the dead.
Ixbal from the first scene of the film is having a “Murphy’s Law” or “Job” day and just when you think that things can’t get worse, unfathomably they do. “Biutiful” is too ambitious and too abusive in length. The flash- back scenes are unnecessarily repetitive; perhaps the editor felt that after 2 &1/2 hours the audience might forget and excuse the redundancy. It was a venial sin, but a sin nonetheless.
The supporting roles, especially Mariel Alvarez as Ixbal’s manic, alcoholic, estranged wife, Maramba, are wisely, competently depicted.
In conclusion “Biutiful” is a beautiful example of “the best laid plans of mice and men (in this scenario filmmakers) go oft awry”. Bardem, receives FIVE STARS; “BUITIFUL” garnishes……..
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!