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Review: Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces)

Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces)
Starring Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez
Rated R; Spanish w/ English subtitles
currently playing at the Esquire Theatre

Lluis Homar as Mateo Blanco/Harry Caine and Penelope Cruz as Lena in "Broken Embraces."

Penelope Cruz seems to be on fire lately. The Academy Award-winning actress just picked up her third Oscar nom today (best supporting actress for the musical Nine), and even though she hasn’t quite broken through to mainstream American audiences just yet, it appears to be only a matter of time before the “Spanish Enchantress” is a true acting powerhouse in both her native country AND in Hollywood.

Surprisingly, her most recent film (and the latest offering by Pedro Almodovar, director of Volver, Bad Education, and Talk to Her) failed to garner any attention from the Academy this year, which is a pity because Broken Embraces is a thoughtful, layered mystery fraught with love, obsession, and revenge. The story centers on Mateo Blanco (Homar) a writer who drops his real name in favor of a pen name, Harry Caine, after a tragedy leaves him blind and heartbroken. After learning that Ernesto Martel (Gomez), a corrupt and powerful man from his past, has recently died, the story surrounding Mateo’s current situation begins to unravel. Through subsequent interactions with his agent (Portillo), her son Diego, and a mysterious man who calls himself Ray X, Mateo delves into the chain events that led up to his professional and personal destruction.

It’s difficult to say much more than this because I don’t want to give away any of the intricacies that make up bulk of the story. Suffice to say that it keeps the audience riveted as bits of information are peeled back to reveal even more questions. All of the performances are right on target, particularly that of Cruz, who plays Lena, a secretary/wannabe actress who is pivotal to the plot’s progression.  Much like Scarlett Johansson to Woody Allen, Cruz has been affectionately dubbed as Almodovar's muse.  If that's the case, it seems to be working for both of them, at least on the foreign film circuit.  As for her presence in American cinema, Cruz certainly made her mark last year with her best supporting actress win for Vicky Christina Barcelona.

But you’ll have to wait until March 7th to see if she snags golden statuette #2.


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