“Biutiful” is a sprawling, jumbled film, one that at times feels awkwardly cobbled together by writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is probably best known for 2005’s “Babel.”
The film bills itself as a redemption tale, but it seems to have taken plot points and characters from the reluctant mediums of “Hereafter,” “The Sixth Sense” or even the terrified immigrants of “Dirty Pretty Things.” Perhaps it is the Academy’s demonstrated affection for González Iñárritu’s films that won “Biutiful” its best foreign language film nomination for Mexico, but the film is simply not that good.
As Uxbal, a morally conflicted middle-man who provides cheap immigrant labor to nefarious employers, Javier Bardem is fantastic and wholly deserving of his recent Academy Award nomination. His character battles the ability to speak to the recently departed, an extremely troubled spouse and the recent discovery of terminal cancer. Uxbal stumbles through the grim side of Barcelona, one that few tourists ever see.
Bardem is far better than the commercial trash that comprises his recent filmography, and after watching “Biutiful,” one can tell that he is slumming it in movies like “Eat, Pray, Love.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the film fails to live up to the high standard set by its leading actor.
Rating: 2/4 stars
Starring: Javier Bardem
Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu
MPAA Rating: R
Sarah B. Pilchick may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.