Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look44.12%
Just Average: 2.94%
Pretty Crappy: 8.82%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 10 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Pedro Loves The Ladies"
5 stars

As the end credits for the new Spanish film “Volver” began to run, I sat in my seat shocked and stunned over the brilliance of the movie I had just witnessed. This may seem like an odd reaction when you consider that it has been hailed as a masterpiece by virtually all who have seen it since it premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival to rapturous acclaim and a collective Best Actress award for all the women in the cast. However, “Volver” was made by Pedro Almodovar, the internationally acclaimed director whose previous efforts (such as his breakthrough “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and such award-laden recent works as “All About My Mother,” “Talk To Her” and “Bad Education”) have always left me cold and confused as to what it was that my fellow critics saw in them–beyond his facility for creating characters for actresses, his films always struck me as far too smug and self-consciously flamboyant for my tastes. And yet, “Volver” is such a beautifully composed work–blackly funny, deeply funny and anchored with some great performances–that I began to wonder if Almodovar had always been like this and I had somehow just failed to notice it over the years amidst the campy melodrama and flamboyant visual style of his earlier works.

“Volver” stars Penelope Cruz as Raimunda, an earthy housewife struggling to support both her daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo) and her drunken lout of a husband, Paco (Antonio de la Torre). From the first time we see her, cleaning the graves of the parents who died in a mysterious fire when she was younger, we know instinctively that behind the va-va-voom good looks is the kind of fiercely determined woman who will do anything to protect her loved ones at any cost. This is confirmed when she comes home one day to discover her husband lying dead on the kitchen floor from a knife wound–in yet another alcoholic stupor, he tried to molest his daughter and she stabbed him in the ensuing struggle. Without even a moment’s hesitation, Raimunda knows what she must do–she mops up all the blood (with the same determination she deployed at the graveyard), stuffs the body in the freezer of a restaurant that the owner has asked her to watch over while he looks for a buyer. While straightening up at the restaurant, a rep from a film crew shooting nearby asks if she can provide catering for the crew and she agrees. Before long, the restaurant becomes a popular hangout–so popular, in fact, that Raimunda is forced to recruit one of her friends to help her move and bury the freezer in the woods with no questions asked.

This would seem to be more than enough plot for a normal film–even a normal Almodovar film–but it is only half the story. Raimunda’s sister, Sole (Lola Duenas), has been caring for their elderly aunt and this relative has begun to insist that the spirit of their late mother, Irene (Carmen Maura), has been visiting her from time to time to help out with things. Sole dismisses this as mere dementia but after the aunt dies, she is stunned to encounter Mom herself. Sole takes her in, gives her a job in the quasi-legal beauty shop that she runs out of her home (explaining her away to customers as a Russian immigrant who can’t speak Spanish) and even introduces her to Paula. However, Irene will not see Raimunda face-to-face–scurrying under the bed to hide when she makes an unexpected appearance–and it becomes clear that there is more their past, not to mention Mom’s return, than meets the eye. Ironically, Raimunda is also on a momquest of her own–an old friend (Blanca Portillo) who is dying of cancer enlists her help in trying to find her own mother, who mysteriously disappeared the same day of the fire that killed her own parents.

On the surface, “Volver” is not that far removed from Almodovar’s previous films–it bridges the gap between the whacked-out weirdness of his earlier films with the more subdued aesthetic of his more recent works and its focus on mothers is something that he has been examining off and on throughout his entire career. So why does “Volver” work so well, at least in my eyes, in ways that his previous films never quite managed? My feeling is that for the first time, Almodovar seems to have enough faith in his material to let it unfold without the self-conscious remove that has often seemed to find him (and us in the audience) standing outside the story providing air quotes around every scene. This time around, while the basic story is as convoluted as ever, it flows in a manner that feels totally natural and lifelike while maintaining an effortless balance between the comedy and the drama. Because of this, when the film gets to its heart-tugging climax where long-buried secrets are revealed and relationships mended, the scene pays off because it has earned the right to those emotions.

What also separates “Volver” from Almodovar’s previous efforts are the performances. The film marks Maura’s first appearance in an Almodovar film since 1988 after serving as his muse during his formative days as a director and to witness her return adds an extra poignancy to her work as Irene. That said, it isn’t mere nostalgia that drives her performance along–she is funny and touching when required and does a good job of subtly suggesting Irene’s off-kilter quality that will keep viewers guessing as to how she seems to have returned from the dead and why. As Raimunda’s sister and daughter, Duenas and Cobo are also fascinating to watch as well and even though she is stuck with the weakest scene in the film–a relatively toothless satire of a reality TV show–Portillo gets a few affecting moments of her own as Augustina.

However, the true heart and soul of “Volver” (not to mention a generously upholstered hinder) comes from Penelope Cruz, for whom Almodovar specifically wrote the role of Raimunda. Although Cruz has received more attention in recent years for her high-profile romances and her largely unsuccessful attempts to break through in the American film industry (where her most convincing turn was in “Vanilla Sky” and even that found her playing a role she had already done in the original Spanish version), the fact is that she has always shown herself to have strong acting chops lurking behind the heart-stopping beauty when she has been given a strong role to play. In “Volver,” she gets just that kind of role–the kind of feisty earth mother that Anna Magnani used to play a few decades ago–and tears into it with evident relish. The result is not only one of the year’s strongest performances–funny, tragic, heart-rending, angry and sexy all at once–in a rare year with a surplus of significant female roles but far and away the best and most convincing work that she has ever done.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15003&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/22/06 00:06:19
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/17/13 Annie G Well, my guy got it and loved it as much as I did! 4 stars
5/22/10 fartvenugen promising, but fails. Too contrived - TV scene, cancer patient, fake singing... 2 stars
9/28/07 jeanne Oh, gee - the guys don't get it. Color me surprised. Penelope's beautiful sweaters ROCKED! 5 stars
9/18/07 Ben Larson Marvelous film about women 5 stars
4/29/07 Phil M. Aficionado A real snoozer and kind of irritating in some ways 2 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Terribly tedious. Never been a big Almodovar fan, and this changed little. 3 stars
4/03/07 ¿Cómo se dice “chick flick” en español? Homicide & disposal of body become as banal as peeing, farting, shampooing & cooking dinner 2 stars
2/28/07 Ole Man Bourbon Fun movie. Sharply made, too. 4 stars
12/31/06 matthew smith almodovar's best film since all about my mother 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  03-Nov-2006 (R)
  DVD: 03-Apr-2007



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast