#NASTYWOMEN: WEEK 7 – FRIDA (2002) REVIEW
DIR: JULIE TAYMOR
In this column I’ll be focusing on women in film; profiling wonderful directors, writers and characters. While I’ll be open to exploring great female characters in all films, I’m going to concentrate on and celebrate women surrounded by women.
How it took fourteen years for me to watch Frida, I’ll never know. This passionate and perfectly executed biopic paints a colourful picture. Frida Kahlo certainly had an exciting life.
The film opens in Mexico City. It’s 1922 and Frida and her beau (Diego Luna) are spying on the famous painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), as he tries to seduce the model he is painting. Not too long after, Frida is involved in an awful tram/bus crash and suffers horrific injuries. She is bedridden and even though extremely frustrated with her new reality, it also makes her more determined and focused than ever. She sits in bed and paints on her body cast, deciding to take control of her future, despite this rather huge obstacle. Her boyfriend decides to leave Frida behind when he moves overseas and although her heart is broken (um, hello - artistic fuel!), after she can finally walk again, she visits Rivera and asks for critique on her work. Blind Freddy can sense the chemistry and tension between the two and it’s not long before they’re married.
The chemistry between Hayek and Molina is off the charts. Sure, he might be a pig who can’t keep his pants on, but that’s not the point…or is it? Diego is entitled as all hell and Frida knew what she was getting herself into when she married him, but does that make it any less painful? Frida tells Diego that she can handle his infidelity, as long as he’s loyal (an oxymoron?) and he continues to sleep with other women throughout their marriage(s), but crosses a line when he hooks up with Frida’s sister Cristina (Mia Maestro). It’s a bit of a let down that, while initially fuming, Frida ‘comes around’ and eventually takes responsibility for the betrayal as she allowed Diego to be in the same room as Cristina. I’m sorry, what? I’d like to phone a friend to gauge the historical accuracy here, because it seems to go against everything that Frida stands for. Did she love him that much that she was willing to overlook this enormous and heart breaking error of judgement on his part? Or is this the artistic liberty of the writers in order to create more drama. Of course, the historical accuracy isn’t vital in order for the film to be interesting or enjoyable, but I really need to know on a personal level.
Geoffrey Rush is quite memorable as Leon Trotsky, the man who not only sought exile in Mexico after Stalin kicked him out of the USSR, but who had an affair with Frida, while the two were both married to others. Diego even goes so far to suggest that their affair was the catalyst for Trotsky’s murder but, alright mate, pretty sure you’re clutching at straws there.
Salma Hayek is sensational, making Frida an absolute icon for empowerment and independence. Frida was different and she owned it, choosing to live her life exactly the way she wanted, apologising to no one. Her work is playful, yet serious and we know a lot of it comes from a painful place. She used her pain to create art to share with the world and didn’t stop until her (extremely premature) death at the age of 47.
We seem to travel from one exciting and passionate event to the next in Frida over and over throughout the duration of the film and while you’d think this would get old, the drama doesn’t, with credit to the wonderful actors at the forefront. Frida is visually stunning and is able to transform everything in Frida’s life to look incredibly glamorous, even when it’s not.
Chloe Sesta Jacobs is a people and culture geek who loves writing about film and usually does so with her two miniature sausage dogs lying all over her. Chloe really enjoys world cinema and has been heard to say “if it doesn’t have subtitles, don’t talk to me”. She also tweets a LOT at @csestajacobs.