One Spanish critic complained as I entered the press room, We expect Pedro Almodovar to be more how do you say...divertito!" Basta!
Marisa Paredes is GREAT as Leo, a writer on the verge of alcoholism, because her life is split between the propriety of being respectable and being "Amanda Gris" a pseudonym for her romance novels (called "pink novels" in Spanish). Her pinkness is getting pale as her life gets serious. (Sorta like Almodovar wanted to make a movie for grown-ups I suspect.)
Leo's identity is suffocating her-expressed in a beautiful scene of having to ask various friends to help her take her boots off. They're a gift from her husband, but they're too damned tight, and she can't get the things off without... going to see her friend Betty, a psychologist who trains people to deal with grief. Betty is also the lover of Leo's hubby but that doesn't get in the way of friendship. Ah, these Europeans......!
The most entertaining character in the film is Leo's mother, played by Chus Lampreava and according to Almodovar, modeled on his own mom and Spanish villages where one belongs to a community that, per Almodovar, is the "quintessence of La Mancha...equivalent to saying that the only place in the world where women sit out in the sun to embroider with bolillos. By hand...They spend a lifetime doing it" And when the mother senses Leo's misery, she advises her to come home, because "...so young you are, like a cow without a cowbell!"
But Leo's cowbell is her writing and oddly enough her biggest fan, a newspaper editor who commissions her to write a critique of her alter-ego, Amanda Gris, gives her permission to damn herself and get over it. When he discovers that she is the Spanish Jackie Suzanne!- he's thrilled. And she need not be ashamed anymore. Does she find happiness? Not exactly. She loses her warrior husband, who'd rather bring peace to Bosnia than to his troubled household, but then...that too, is worth doing.
I identified with this film enormously because I've written "pink criticism" for a naughty publication called "Forum"- and although occasionally I'm appalled at my own language, it's liberating. Everybody should delve into whatever it is that turns people on-pop culture, eroticism, something that will bring out the dark twin then bring us home to our mothers.
Leo has the contradictory character of a woman who's beyond nervous breakdowns. Almodovar confesses that he is jealous of her pseudonym and wishes he could "Amanda Gris". I already have my pseudonym, "Harry Caine" and it's on his postcard greeting to you. Perhaps he just wants a hurricane named after him; perhaps he's grown up enough to let the rosebud of his secret blossom forth.
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