Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, Julieta, just premiered over here in Spain, and I could not wait to see it (no less because all movie theaters here sell beer.) But apparently I was one of few, as the film had the worst opening weekend attendance in decades for the Spanish director. Many suspect it has to do with the recent naming of Pedro and his brother and producer, Agustín, in the Panama Papers, which caused Pedro to cancel all promotional appearances just prior to the release, leaving the star actresses to meet the press on their own. No surprise, the news hit hard in a country barely recovering from an economic crisis and naming someone that is supposedly “for the people” in what is basically a tax evasion scheme. On the other hand, it has been well reported that Julieta premiered in half the amount of theaters than normal for an Almodóvar film, which leaves one wondering what Warner Bros. based that number on and why.
From those who did see Julieta initial reviews are mixed, as are my personal feelings about it. But critiques aside, in interviews with the director before the scandal, he claimed that his 20th feature is a new type of film for him, more serious, meaning zero camp, zero melodramatic tears. I beg to differ. While it is true that the film is lacking in comedic relief and outlandish characters, below are six ways in which the new Almodóvar is still the old Almodóvar.
For diehard fans, the film will be a pleasure to see. For the brothers Almodóvar, I can only hope they correct the damage that has been done and that they don’t even dare think about stopping making films. As for Julieta, only time will tell where it lands in the history of Spanish film.
Strong Female Characters
Very few male directors can capture the inner world of their female characters as Almodóvar and in that respect he does not disappoint in Julieta, this time tackling the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. After the over-the-top I’m So Excited!, this is a welcomed return to form.
Spectacular Interior Design
Sure the styles are toned down, with only one apartment dizzyingly wallpapered, but the homes of the protagonists leave me wishing I were a “chica Almodóvar” for the chance to at least pretend to live in them.
Familiar Faces Like Rossy de Palma
Alongside some very familiar face (he tends to work with the same group of actresses) the introduction of two new “chicas Almodóvar” to the world: Emma Suárez who impresses with her ability to hold back the tears, and Adriana Ugarte whose ’80s look could fit right in to any of his films that were actually shot in the 1980s. Old regular Rossy de Palma returns in her most normal role yet, that is, if you consider an intimidating and metiche housekeeper normal.
The beautiful and dramatic use of color to express inner states of feeling from heartbreak to emptiness to love.
Visibility of Trans Characters
Although lacking a major role in the film, Almodóvar cannot help but throw in a shot and a line by a transgender character, even if it has little to do with the storyline.
His positive outlook on life. No matter how intense the drama, how deep the scars or how profound the pain, his belief in small miracles, coincidences, and the hope they can induce remain.