When I heard an interview with Javier Bardem about this film, I was interested. Then I watched the trailer over and over on youtube and hulu and ached to see it in theatres. Unfortunately, we missed it, despite all our good efforts, but now it's finally on DVD and I just watched it through Netflix.
What an artistic achievement. The wait was totally worth it.
This film makes me think about what Americans, and Mormons, for that matter, like to get out of movies. I don't think this film went over as well with Americans because it wasn't glitzy or easy to swallow. The lead character, Uxbal, is very complex. He's a criminal, a hustler, someone who is potentially exploiting undocumented workers. On the other hand, we can see his efforts to try to make illegal immigrants' lives easier. Most of the characters in the film are not easy to love or hate instantly. They are all in difficult, gut-wrenching situations that makes you root for them, despite their setbacks and flaws.
I love films that open our eyes to a viewpoint we had never thought of. "Biutiful" is set in Barcelona. I wouldn't have recognized it from any tourist sites anyway, but this film shows us the real underworld of Barcelona that you wouldn't get from a travel guide. Imagine being a Chinese immigrant living in Spain, a European country that is in financial crisis right now. Imagine being on the lowest financial rung of that country, but your situation there is preferable to living in your home country, where there is absolutely no work, and much more instability and danger. What would you do? That is was "Biutiful" asks its audience again and again, and I come up short with my responses. Uxabel, however, is a very compelling, vulnerable and deep character to watch. Watch this movie.
It also made me think about the function of stories in our lives, especially in the media. Are stories supposed to be moral? Are we only supposed to absorb stories where the characters are in easy-to-define, easy-to-solve conflict? Are we supposed to learn from stories where are the characters are binary, black-and-white figures that are all good or all bad? Who is more inspiring to you, a person who never makes mistakes and always comes out on top, or the underdog who struggles? I guess I didn't phrase that question in a very fair way. I guess what I find inspiring in "Biutiful", another person could easily find depressing and uninteresting. I found the conflicts in "Biutiful" to be fascinating, however. I wanted to watch Uxbel travel throughout his story, and for it to never end.