Film Reviews

Biutiful: Javier Bardem and miserabilist humanism

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.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Melissa Anderson