When it comes to Oscar nominated films, I generally hate about half of them. At first, I figured I just wasn’t gifted with the right amount of taste and pedigree. The films that Oscar finds fascinating, I find boring or way too sad. Biutiful fits the sad category.
The Mexican film about, and shot in, Spain has been nominated for best foreign language film of the year. Its star, Javier Bardem, has been nominated for best actor in a lead role.
In Biutiful, Bardem’s Uxbal is a man torn between what’s right and wrong with his world. He is a hustler by trade, being the middle man between crime. He’s also a loving father trying to hold his family together after his wife, Marambra, played by Maricel Alvarez, goes off the deep end and can’t be trusted to be around her own kids. If only Uxbal’s troubles stop there.
In addition to being responsible for keeping up with the illegal Chinese people who have come to Spain in need of work, Uxbal is the middle man for a group of Senegalese Africans trying to make a living selling fake designer handbags. He also has to keep his estranged wife at arms length, which proves to be one of his most difficult tasks, because he’s very much in love with her. He even has the gift of communicating with the recently deceased and sending them off to the afterlife.
To make matters even more complicated, because life wasn’t hard enough for Uxbal, screenwriter/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, along with writers Armando Bo and Nicholas Giacobone, decided to afflict Uxbal with a serious disease.
As you may have guessed, this film is infinitely sad. Uxbal is left trying to find the right person to look after his children after he dies because their violent mother is still suffering from a mental disorder and his morally bankrupt brother, Tito (Eduard Fernandez) is still a major player in organized crime.
I can see why Bardem has been nominated for an Academy for this film. Hollywood loves him. His Uxbal, despite being a criminal, is much beloved. Bardem is a fabulous actor and it shows, especially when Uxbal’s health takes a turn for the worse.
I can even see how this film could be nominated for foreign language. Biutiful is so real that it’s depressing. The lighting is dark. The subject matter is dark. The characters are dark. The despair hangs over this film like a 50 lb. weight. It suffocates its audience and taps into emotions that are deeply hidden in our inner most psyche.
Perfect Oscar material.
Biutiful’s Oscar nom is no mistake. That kind of gritty realness that makes its audience want to take a shower is obviously a labor of love, blood, sweat, and tears. However, I’m glad I don’t have to watch it again. Should I re-take that journey, I will most likely need to put myself on stimulants to recover.
Kimberly Grant may be contacted at KAliciaG@aol.com.