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Frida (2002)
Rated R

Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, and Geoffrey Rush

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

Salma Hayek fought for years to get the life story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo made into a film. Madonna and Jennifer Lopez also attempted to get versions of her life to the big screen. (For the life of me, I can't see why Madonna would think herself right for this role.) In any case, Hayek won and her effort was worth it.

The film follows Frida's life from her teenage years to her death at age 47. From the trolley accident that caused her to deal with physical pain over the course of her life to the relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) that caused her emotional upheaval for almost as long.

The film, which was directed by Julie Taymor (Titus), is a wonderful mesh of artwork and film trickery. The artist's pieces are brought to life using a combination of digital effects and unique lighting. Clever animated vignettes are used to illustrate main plot points and breathe life into what could have been a straight re-telling of Frida's life story. That's not to say that the performances take a backseat to the visuals. Quite the contrary.

Hayek is phenomenal as Frida. She brings an appropriate blend of raw sexuality, free spirited enthusiasm and titanic inner strength. Alfred Molina's Diego Rivera is a big, burly man with a genuine -- and sometimes heartbreaking -- love for Frida and her work. Hayek and Molina provide the centerpiece that the rest of the film revolves around. Appearances by Ashley Judd, Diego Luna (Y tu Mama Tambien), Antonio Banderas, Saffron Burrows and Edward Norton simply build on the foundation laid by Hayek and Molina.

While Frida might not be an exact retelling of the life of its subject -- and what biographical movie really ever is -- the film does have an undeniably effective and engaging way of telling her story. If moviegoing can be likened to a journey, Frida is definitely worth the trip.

Trivia: Salma Hayek will be seen in 2003 in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, a sequel to 1995's Desperado. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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