Beauty and Anguish

Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor's Mesmerizing Film

Salma Hayek beautifully portrays the joys and anguish of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Frida (Miramax).

The film reveals the gutsy-ness, persistence, brilliance, and pain of one of Mexico’s most renowned artists.

A promising and charming 18-year-old university student, Frida’s life takes an unexpected tragic turn when a 1925 trolley crash leaves her spine broken and leg mangled. Up to her chest in a body cast, her family is uncertain Frida will ever walk again. Determined to live?even from the confines of her bed?Frida energetically paints self-portraits by looking into a mirror her parents rig for her.

In time she succeeds in walking again. And soon Frida persuades established muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) to comment on her work. The artist?21 years her senior?is impressed with her talent and smitten by her.

Their passion for art, leftist intellectual politics, hard drinking, and sex bond the two together. But when discussing marriage, Diego tells her candidly he can’t promise his fidelity. Frida, na?ve and unprepared for what lies ahead, says she’ll settle for his loyalty.

But the arrangement proves excruciating for Frida, who is heartbroken and enraged by Diego’s womanizing ways. She exacts her revenge by also entering into casual affairs with men and women?only to discover there is no peace in getting even. Eventually she and Diego divorce.

When Frida asks her father to remind her what she wanted to be when she was young, he says: “You wanted to be your own person.”

Throughout, Frida paints the anguish and pain she feels both in her soul and her body. She paints the beauty of Mexican culture as well as life’s cruelty and bitterness.

Her unique artistic talent and surreal vision become increasingly recognized outside of Mexico and within.

The movie is exquisitely filmed. Director Julie Taymor creatively uses animation and puppetry to express Frida’s deeper emotions.

But the chronic pain with which Frida lives takes its toil on her body. On the other hand, age has softened Diego of his reckless lifestyle and he asks Frida to take him back.

From her wheelchair she says to him, “I don’t need rescuing.” He replies, “I do.”

In a moment of grace the two flawed artists choose forgiveness and redemption. They embrace again the spirit of their meaningful lifelong connection and powerful love for each other.

Rating information: This film is rated R-restricted. The U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops have recommended it for adults, with reservations (classification A-IV).