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Biutiful: Javier Bardem and miserabilist humanism

Javier Bardem in Biutiful

Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu's first film since he split from screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, with whom he created the fractured, parceled-out, time-toggling — and increasingly globe-hopping, multilingual, and portentous — trilogy Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel, stays in one place (Barcelona) and follows one main character (Javier Bardem's Uxbal) in a linear story line. Though its structure might be whittled down in comparison with the earlier works, Biutiful, which Iñárritu wrote with first-timers Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone, is even more morbidly obese than Babel in terms of soggy ideas, elephantine with miserabilist humanism and redemption jibber-jabber. Beyond dying of prostate cancer — a situation that calls for several scenes of Bardem peeing blood in his pants before affixing an adult diaper — Uxbal must contend with a bipolar wife who's sleeping with his brother; serve as the black-market point man for Senegalese dope peddlers and two venal Chinese sweatshop overseers (who also happen to be d/l lovers); and communicate with the dead — a burdensome gift that comes in handy after a horrible incident at the sweatshop. Through this relentless, manipulative muck, Uxbal tries to be a stable, loving parent to his two tykes, especially after Mom gives one of them a shiner. For all the hand-wringing hooey, Iñárritu says nothing more complex than this: Father feels worst.

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