February 26, 2005 -- This latest film by acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar “All About My Mother,” “Talk to Her,” is a dark film filled with sleazy, back-stabbing, lying, cheating, stealing characters. When the most noble character in the movie is a pedophiliac priest, you know you are in trouble. In addition to the above-mentioned sins, there is extortion and two murders. It's not a bad film, really, but there are no characters you can really root for.
The complex movie-within-a-movie story has Angel (Gael García Bernal of “The Motorcycle Diaries”), an aspiring actor, pitching a screenplay idea to director Enrique Goded (played by Fele Martínez of “Talk to Her”). Angel is an old school buddy of Goded, so he reads the script that Angel wrote, and he likes it. Angel wants the lead role in the film, but Goded doesn't think he's right for the part, but he changes his mind after the two have sex, repeatedly. It's a condition of Angel's continued employment, really.
As Goded reads the screenplay, we see flashbacks to an earlier time. The screenplay is based on Angel's and Goded's experience in school, where Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho of “Y tu mamá también”), a pedophile, falls in love with one of the boys. Manolo surfaces again, years later. This time he is no longer a priest. One of the boys he had sex with has written a story about it which threatens to expose his sordid past. He is blackmailed.
As Goded rewrites the screenplay and then begins to film the movie, with Angel as the star, he is approached by Manolo, who offers him a different take on events at the school, and years later, that are depicted in the screenplay. The movie gives us multiple versions of the truth about what happened. As more crimes are uncovered it becomes harder to tell who is the perpetrator and who is the victim. Everyone seems to blackmailing and using everyone else. Angel is willing to do anything to further his career as an actor. Goded is willing to use his power to get what he wants. Others in the film also use blackmail. The ex-priest, it seems, is the only character who is driven only by his passion. He pursues his passion for young men to the point of his own destruction. Others use him for their own purposes and then discard him. Father Manolo's main desire is for love above all else. Others exploit his desire. This is a very dark, sad tale of the worst kinds of betrayal.
This movie is rated NC-17, which is the strictest rating in the MPAA rating system. Considering that rating, it is actually pretty tame. There is no full frontal nudity. The sex scenes are not graphic. If this movie depicted heterosexual erotica instead of homoerotic scenes, it might not even get an “R” rating, let alone NC-17. Sexual politics are in play regarding this rating. It does depict oral sex, masturbation and sodomy, but none of those scenes are graphic. Some filmmakers think that simply having homosexual, bisexual or transvestite characters in a film makes those characters interesting. Not at all. They are just people, and are not inherently any more or less interesting than any other people. In this particular film, with these characters, I just couldn't work up much sympathy for, or interest in, any of them. I give this film a C+.
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