When you watch a lot of films you’re bound to pick up a few that are different, that separate themselves from the pack. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Spanish nominated picture, Biutiful” is certainly an example of that statement. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Sure, Iñárritu’s film is offbeat and odd, but it’s also deliberately artsy, prolonged by 30 minutes, and it’s drastically heavy-handed on not only dialogue, but symbolism. There is one thing that’s for sure: Javier Bardem’s Oscar nomination, was absolutely no mistake.
Biutiful, at times, is a larger than life picture, focusing on family and how one person is ready to amend his past sins. Bardem plays Uxbal, a drug dealer in Barcelona who’s recently been told he has cancer and at best has three months to live. He has two children, Ana and Mateo, and a wife who’s more psychotic than Leighton Meester in The Roommate.
To protect his family from further crisis and pain Uxbal decides not to tell his family about his illness. Finally, as his death approaches Uxbal wants to make right with everyone of his wrongdoings. This dives the picture into multiple subplots (ex: two homosexual Chinese workers trying to make money, a drug dealer and his family about to be deported, issues with brother and the burial of their father) that create some fantastic scenes, but often detract from the meaning and the substance of the picture.
As Biutiful transcends itself into its incredibly long third act, we start to wonder if the film is going anywhere. Uxbal keeps trying to do right, but often comes up short. His family is starting to get suspicious and the money he once obtained is slowly going down the drain. Part of the problem with the picture is the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Almost everyone one of his pictures, which for the most part I dislike (Babel and 21 Grams), is infused with multiple intertwining stories. Well, this time he isn’t doing that, yet incidently he doesn’t know how to center in on one character. The result is a challenging picture, that’s so convoluted in its plot, that by the end it’s lost almost all of its significance.
One of the hardest things to get past is the unbearably long 150 minute run time. Which really rest assures that Gonzales is trying to do, too much with his film. It has some solid pacing, but it consistently struggles to find meaning and the constant symbols and metaphoric language just add to this already challenging movie. And yet the picture is watchable because Bardem is just that good. He makes this story interesting and engrossing, in spite of its tediousness.
Roger Ebert (who liked the picture far greater than I) noted something I truly embraced throughout the picture. Yes, Bardem’s character has done a lot of bad things, but it’s nice to see someone, for once, take responsibility for their actions. Perhaps it’s too little to late, but at least someone owns up to and at last understands what they’ve done.
For Biutiful, I suspect the picture will win for best foreign film (though it should be Animal Kingdom, sadly the film needs to be in a different language), partly because of the wide attention it’s getting. Not by any means is Biutiful a great movie, its bleak and often too convoluted for it’s own good. But perhaps there’s some underlining truth behind it. Uxbal realizes that if he wants to connect and have an afterlife, he needs to fix his past sins. He certainly tried and though most of his decisions were bad, he did always make them in the interest of his family. That’s not to say doing something unethical for love, should be condoned, but it does however, make it more forgivable.
My question to you guys: Was Biutiful worth the Oscar nomination?
Notes: Rated R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use, 148 minutes long.