Review of Frida (2002), a Movie About Mexican Painter Frida Kahlo

by Mira

Salma Hayek is superb as Frida Kahlo in this biopic directed by Julie Taymor. Great performances from Alfred Molina and Geoffrey Rush as well.

I don’t know where Salma Hayek disappeared for the past ten or so years, but I’m glad to learn she’ll be back this year, 2014, with three movies and a TV movie (and some voice acting). I see she’s been doing a lot of TV lately, 30 Rock among other things.

I watched Salma Hayek as Frida on TV recently, even though I had seen the movie before (also on TV). In the meantime, I had bought two books about Frida’s life, and rediscovered her voice outside her paintings and this movie about her. I also rediscovered Alfred Molina, who plays Diego Rivera in the film Frida, while watching An Education (2009) and Chocolat (2000), both for a second time. It was a pleasure to see him in Frida. He’s truly a magnificent actor.

As the movie neared its end, I saw behind the makeup Geoffrey Rush playing Trotsky. It was a nice surprise, especially after seeing his wonderful work in The Book Thief (2013).

But the star of the movie was, no doubt, Salma Hayek, who probably gave here the best performance of her career.

Frida, Movie Poster
Frida, Movie Poster

Frida, directed by Julie Taymor, has won two Academy Awards, for music (Elliott Goldenthal) and makeup (John E. Jackson and Beatrice De Alba), respectively. It was also nominated for six Academy Awards.

The actors do a wonderful job, all of them, including those in secondary roles besides Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, and Geoffrey Rush. And Salma Hayek should have definitely won Best Actress, but that was a strong year, with Renée Zellweger in Chicago and Nicole Kidman in The Hours. (Nicole Kidman took the award.)

The film Frida is rather offbeat, quirkier and more naïve artistically (self-consciously so, of course) than the usual Hollywood fare, with cinematography and acting that capture the spirit of Frida (such as it can be imagined from her work and her writing), of her art, and of Mexico. I love that it stayed so true to the documentary evidence (journal entries, works of art, photographs, etc.). Everyone involved did a great job.

Frida, the DVD

$4.8  $8.99

A Little Bit About Frida Kahlo’s Life

Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderón in Coyoacán, Mexico, in 1907, to a German-born father and a Mexican mother. She was a frolicsome child, even after suffering a debilitating bout of polio at six that left her with a limp. Although she took pains to hide her affected leg, what marked her for life was not this illness but a terrible accident she suffered at 18, when the bus she was in crashed into a tram. Her body was crushed, in particular her right side. She would suffer over 20 surgeries, would lose a baby before term, and would ultimately have her right leg amputated at the knee before her suffering would end in 1954, at only 47 years of age.

Watch Frida Now on Amazon On-Demand Video

Only $3.99

Frida was in pain all her life. A few days before her death, she wrote in her diary, “I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return.” And yet Frida lived life with a passion, and those who knew her commented about her charms. French writer André Breton, the father of Surrealism, wrote that Frida had “all the gifts of seduction.”

The movie presents very well her turbulent relationship with Diego Rivera, and their deep-rooted love for each other. It also shows Frida as a woman who liked to drink, sing, and party. A woman who charmed an older Leon Trotsky when he sought refuge with his wife in Mexico, after his children had been murdered.

You also get to see many of her paintings expressing her suffering in body and mind, and her love for Diego Rivera.

There’s much more in the movie. I’ll let you discover Frida’s life that way.

Some of Frida Kahlo’s Art

One good place to start reading about Frida Kahlo’s art is Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Here’s a page about The Two Fridas (1939), two of her self-portraits, Frida and Diego Rivera (1931), My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree) from 1936.

Updated: 12/31/2020, Mira
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Mira on 04/15/2015

I sometimes hear about Mexico on the national radio, but not so much about its art. I wish I knew more about that, too.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2015

Mira, Especially when I'm immersed in topics pertaining to Mexico or to New Mexico, I am reminded constantly of the ongoing influences of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera on art, perception, and so many areas of life.

Mira on 11/16/2014

Glad you like her work, Violette! She was one of a kind, and Frida Kahlo portrays her personality beautifully.

VioletteRose on 11/16/2014

I didn't know about Frida Kahlo before, thanks for sharing. Her paintings show she was very talented.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/05/2014

Mira, Yes, this movie is well conceived. I have seen it several times, but not recently. I've been thinking of it lately, especially while writing about El Greco, and so I wanted to see the movie, with a fresh perspective from not having seen it for a while.

Mira on 11/03/2014

I hope you do get to watch this movie. It's really well conceived.

DerdriuMarriner on 11/03/2014

Mira, I came back for a reminder of this film, an interesting tribute to a distinctive artist. I don't have time to re-see the movie this month, so your review is the next best thing.

Mira on 08/11/2014

Thank you, Sally!

kimbesa on 08/05/2014

This is one of my favorite movies. IMO, very well done!

Mira on 04/29/2014

I didn't know all that about Madonna. Thank you for this. It's actually very interesting.

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