Talk to Her

Bomb Rating: 

"Talk to Her" is ostensibly a deep, thinky film. Critics insist it's deep and thinky. It looks deep and thinky. It's subtitled. The director only has one name (Almodóvar!) and one of the male leads cries more than Richard Simmons at a Country Buffet. Your art-house friends will "ooh" and "ahh" throughout. However, when you leave the theater, it will occur to you, "That wasn't deep and thinky at all. It was actually kind of simplistic, overlong and dumb."

The core problem of Almodóvar's "Talk to Her" is that it fails to garner much sympathy for its supposedly sympathetic characters, and tries to manufacture moral complexity where there really isn't much room for any. The story follows two coma victims, Alicia (Leonor Watling) and Lydia (Rosario Flores), and the men who love them too much, nurse Benigno (Javier Cámara) and journalist Marco (Darí Grandinetti) respectively. Lydia is in a coma because she's a female bullfighter who was gored by a bull. This is supposed to elicit some measure of empathy (I mean, who among us hasn't dressed up in a funny costume and then been gored by a bull?), but I think the more interesting tack would have been to follow the storyline of the bull as he's subsequently hailed by his bull colleagues as the greatest bull hero in bull history.

And before you jump on me for failing to sympathize with a bullfighting casualty just because I don't understand bullfighting, let me clarify: I don't understand bullfighting. This is because bullfighting is idiotic and cruel, and I'm not about to let that slide just because it happens to be idiotic and cruel in another language. Do we really need to respect everything another culture does just because it's another culture? Well, then, bring on the clitorectomies, dog-barbecues and Pakistani tribal justice! Conversely, I don't expect the rest of the world to automatically respect U.S. culture, which is currently dominated by a reflexive totalitarian march to destroy every other nation, creed and species on Earth just so our unelected leader can enrich his prep-school butt-buddies. (Bush should try that at the next press briefing: "Bombing hapless third-world nations for profit is just part of our culture, and I'd like the U.N. to be a bit more sensitive to that.")

But I digress. At some point in "Talk to Her," one of the characters does a bad thing (hint: someone other than the coma patients). We then spend the rest of the movie slowly -- oh so slowly -- walking through the moral complexity of the situation, the only problem being is that there is no moral complexity. The perpetrator is sick scum and the sooner he gets a nasty comeuppance the better. Almodóvar does throw in a few clever tricks along the way, such as interspersing a campy silent short called "The Shrinking Lover" (ooh! ahh!) to break things up a bit and clarify the t-h-e-m-e THEME, but in the end, it's not quite enough to keep us from sinking into a coma ourselves.

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