Mar 2008 19

Milos Forman’s latest wow’s at the start but gets completely lost half way through, leaving one curious as to what happened to the picture by the end.
Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) opens the film calling for the inquisition to return Spain to a god fearing state as they evaluate paintings of Goya that depict the world and church as a wretched and vial place. Lorenzo uses these portraits to convince his brethren to get rid of this image of the world and trains his brothers to seek out sinners based on ridiculous stipulations as reason to hold people captive within the church.
Lorenzo not only used the Goya (Stellan Skarsgård) to gain favor with the Inquisition but also hired him to paint his portrait. While there Lorenzo’s eye is caught by a painting of Inés (Natalie Portman), the daughter of a rich merchant that Goya may or may not have affections for, who becomes victim to Lorenzo’s new outlook on identifying heresy in Madrid.
Lorenzo’s infatuation with Inés, the dealings/negotiating with her family for her, and Goya’s role in all of this mess and as the King’s painter take up the remainder of the films first hour of runtime and the results are fantastic. I will try not to shed anymore details, but the film blends comedy, history, and a wonderful look at art into the intertwined story of these three individuals and it works very well. At the hour turn in the film though, an abrupt time jump returns us to Spain 15 years later and things kind of go to shit. The French and British are pressing Spain and the film tries to show the rebellion, but that doesn’t really work.
The film tries to continue the story arc from the first half, but that isn’t very successful either. The second portion of the film is dominated by Portman, and we are left wanting more of Bardem and Skarsgård as they are the stars of the show here. Portman has a hard time being convincing in this film and I wasn’t that impressed with her turn in either of her dual roles after the jump. I will say no more, but we are left longing for the two males as we are forced to wallow through a lost plot that lost all of its energy and sizzle in literally a matter of seconds with the jump.
Bardem is excellent though, with his role allowing him to show his range, but it’s his characters first half portrayal that really shines. Lorenzo’s servitude as a Brother of the Church is creepy and quietly menacing while he flip-flops and lies from one person to another. Skarsgård on the other hand really shines as Goya in the second half and is the brightest spot of the mess that this promising tale turns into in its second half. Like I mentioned earlier, Portman’s turn is unfortunately weak, and while she bravely takes on the physicality of the role, it just doesn’t work and I can’t really describe it without spoiling things, though she does an admirable job in the first half of the film.
The surprise of this film is Randy Quaid, who turns in a solid and funny, if brief, turn as King Carlos IV of Spain and was a bit of inspired casting, ala Jeffery Jones in Amadeus, by Milos Forman.
If only Forman could have kept the spirit and inspiration the first half of this film throughout as he completely shifts tone, structure, and style and completely loses his viewers. It’s a shame that this didn’t pan out, as I thought it was going to be a hidden gem from 07, but sadly it falls far from where it could have been by the end. If you’re a fan of the two male leads though, definitely rent it, as there is plenty to enjoy. The film is almost worth recommending for the first half alone, but be warned the later part is tough to get through without checking your watch every five minutes and leaves you wishing Milos didn’t drop the ball on this one.


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