Who’s In It: Penelope Cruz, Lluís Homar, Blanca Portillo, José Luis Gómez, Rubén Ochandiano, Tamar Novas
The Basics: A blind writer who goes by the pseudonym “Harry Caine” (Lluís Homar) tells his young assistant Diego (Tamar Novas) about the love of his life, an actress named Magdalena (Penelope Cruz) with whom he fell in love on the set of his last film in the ‘90s. In flashbacks, their illicit romance unfolds as Magdalena’s older, married boyfriend (José Luis Gómez) uncovers their affair with the help of his timid, homosexual son (Rubén Ochandiano). As jealousies and emotions come to a head, a tragic event changes everyone’s lives.
What’s The Deal: Pedro Almodóvar is back with another melodramatic, noir-ish tale of lovers and betrayal in the vein of his recent Bad Education, with a definite nod to his own 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. And he once again puts muse Penelope Cruz at the epicenter of his film, as he did in Live Flesh, All About My Mother, and Volver. The resulting film is an intricately orchestrated tapestry of passions and a treat for Almodóvar fans in particular, who will devour the auteur’s sly, self-reflexive references and his near-identical re-creation of Women on the Verge...
Love, Almodóvar Style: Broken Embraces is a tangle of emotion, desire, sex, and betrayal that fetishizes and demonizes its leading lady, Penelope Cruz. Her Magdalena is no angel; when we first meet her, she’s just gone from part-time escort to being the well-kept woman of the controlling older businessman Ernesto Martel. Magdalena is such a cliché: she wants to become an actress; she’s gorgeous, but wracked with insecurities. And yet Almodóvar loves his flawed femme fatale as much as Harry does, and her conflicted character makes her one of the more interesting female romantic leads in movies this year.
I’d Hate To Be The Producer Who Pissed Almodóvar Off: In a comic and metaphorical twist, Broken Embraces pits its director (Harry) and producer (Martel) at odds, literally fighting over their leading lady (and, by extension, for control of the finished film within the film). The message is clear: movie producers are evil! They’ll stop at nothing to ruin a writer’s life, including editing together the worst possible final cut from subpar takes and, possibly, committing acts of violence. They’re also shriveled, materialistic old horndogs who have no scruples and throw women down staircases and cause true artists to lose their senses, identity, and livelihood. Man, someone must have burned Almodóvar bad.