6.5/10 Embarrassingly enough, this is the first film I have ever watched from acclaimed Spanish writer/director Pedro Almodóvar. The talk of Antonio Banderas as a Best Actor contender is the main reason I wanted to check this out. Billed as a fairly auto-biographical film, “Pain and Glory” does have many similarities with Almodóvar’s life and as someone who previously didn’t know much about him, this was an informative film. The acting, especially by Banderas, is very strong and this is the best performance I have probably ever seen him give. I’m not sure if it will be enough to break into the crowded Best Actor race but Banderas is to be applauded for what he does here. The rest of the supporting cast flexes their acting muscles as well but this is Banderas’ film from start to finish. There are some strong emotional elements on display here as well. This film does have some problems and oddly enough, some aspects that work both as a pro and a con. For example, near the beginning there is a bit of narration from Banderas about all of the medical ailments he has. From a visual perspective, it looks beautiful and is a very interesting way to get the information across. However, it also seems extremely random and out of place considering that nowhere else in the film has anything even similar to this going on and one could see the use of an exposition dump via narration as a little lazy. The score is also a strength and weakness of the film. The first half of the film has a score that is intimate, original and memorable. The second half of the film, however, feels like it comes from a totally different film/composer and strikes me as bland, soap opera-ish and forgettable. There is also a huge coincidence that seemed a bit unlikely to have happened. The biggest flaw this film has is that the subject matter jumps around so much with not enough of a connecting thread between it all. This film jumps from heroin addiction to childhood to the protagonist’s sexuality to a dying mother to health issues to directing films. Every time it focuses on one solid issue, we abandon it to jump somewhere else, making the film jumbled. All that said, the film is entertaining, well-paced, well shot and its personal, autobiographical feel comes across as very genuine and striking. I guess for my first film from Almodóvar I expected a little bit more and I do look forward to checking out more of his work but as far as this film goes, the performance of Banderas and the supporting cast is the best reason to check out this film which is equals parts pain and glory.
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