Rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use, 147 minutes
In Spanish with English subtitles
Bardem is perfecto in the anguishing drama "Biutiful"
"Biutiful" is not always beautiful to watch. As a matter of fact, some of it's downright difficult to watch. The wrenching, overlong new drama from Mexico stars Oscar-winner Javier Bardem ("Eat Pray Love") and after viewing the film, it's none too surprising that Bardem received a nomination for Best Actor and the film is a shoo-in for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar. It's a staggering, brauvera performance that as painful as it is to watch, you can't take your eyes off Bardem, who single-handedly carries the film.
"Biutiful" (it is the Spanish-language spellling of the word beautiful) tells the journey of Uxbal (Bardem), a conflicted man who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amidst the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona. His livelihood is earned out of bounds, his sacrifices for his children know no bounds but then Uxbal is diagnosed with cancer and his life changes once more. Like life itself, "Biutiful" is a circular tale that ends where it begins. As fate encircles Uxbal and thresholds he must face the challenges of love, forgiveness and true redemption.
"Biutiful" is a painful, overlong but beautiful story of redemption, love, and family, as so poignantly told by acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Babel," "Amores perros") and superbly acted by Bardem, who is deserving of the accolades he's received for the downbeat, very long film. Most of Inarritu's messages are well-played with relevance by Bardem, who deglamourizes himself for the role, but it's more than just an "illness of the week" story of someone trying to make good; the messages are deeper and more heart-felt than that as Uxbal comes to terms with death and dying and must make amends with his loved ones.
Inarritu photographs Uxbal's tragic story with dark overtones and close-ups to give a shared intimacy with his story, and you will be right there in the midst of Uxbal's painful story from start to finish. Much like some of his earlier tales, Innaritu shows he's a fine filmmaker but one who can be redundant and one who could trim a few minutes of excess that don't move the story along as well as it should. But otherwise "Biutiful" is a superb, finely acted, emotionally rich and sad portrait of a man's journey from this life and comes highly recommended.