With this role Ms. Cruz inscribes her name near the top of any credible list of present-day flesh-and-blood screen goddesses, in no small part because she manages to be earthy, unpretentious and a little vulgar without shedding an ounce of her natural glamour.
As for the film, he finds that "Mr. AlmodÃ³var has made yet another picture that moves beyond camp into a realm of wise, luxuriant humanism." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon is rapturous about all of the actresses (she finds the film has rescued Cruz from cuteness) and writes that "The picture is so full of life that it seems less a product of the imagination than of the soil."
Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE admits that "it wasn’t until ‘Volver’ that I really began taking Pedro Almodovar seriously as an artist…By the time he reaches his conclusion you’ll be simultaneously dazzled at ‘Volver”s convolutions, and, hopefully, awed by the state of grace they point towards."
Rob Nelson at the Village Voice writes "Fair warning: If you’re not terribly fond of women, you probably shouldn’t see Volver, a movie wherein mere mortality doesn’t stop mothers from loudly smooching their daughters’ cheeks, a breezy comedy in which a seemingly typical male gets stabbed, stuffed into a fridge, and buried at swamp’s edge." Boy, Mr. Nelson, if the character who tries to rape his stepdaughter is a "seemingly typical male," we’d hate to go to a party at your house! Also, we sure hope you include these reader-service "fair warnings" on other films you review, e.g. "Fair warning: If you’re not terribly fond of black people, you probably shouldn’t see ‘Ray’ â€” it’s full of ’em!"
But we digress. On the less ecstatic side, Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly asks "[A]s artfully clever as Volver can be, will I be alone in feeling that the movie is more talky than transcendent? Volver has oodles of ”empathy” without being particularly moving." Scott Foundas at LA Weekly seconds him, finding that the film is "the slightest thing [AlmodÃ³var]â€™s
done in years, impeccably crafted of course…The movie is enjoyable,
but not passionately engaging in the way weâ€™ve come to expect from
AlmodÃ³var, and it leaves you somewhat cold in spite of the warmth of
Cruzâ€™s galvanic performance."
David Edelstein at New York writes that "Before it loses its fizzâ€”maybe two thirds of the way throughâ€”Volver offers the headiest pleasures imaginable…Itâ€™s too bad AlmodÃ³var canâ€™t keep all the balls spinning." And at the New Yorker, Anthony Lane finds that "[T]he film, against my wishes, left me unmoved. There is a lovely scene in which Cruz sings (or lip-synchs) a plaintive ballad, with her tears brimming and the words laying forth the theme of return, but that is just the problem: you feel another cog being added to the filmâ€™s emotional engine, and something about the construction seems too efficient and pat."
+ "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan": No, it’s not independent, though it’s the first major studio release we can think of (we didn’t try very hard) that apes the look of a low-budget, amateurish indie. It’s also one of the best-reviewed films of the year so far â€” that being said, let’s start with darling Armond at the New York Press, who, naturally, hates it:
As Borat Sagdiyev, Cohen pretends to document the habits of fly-over America; his red state debauch ultimately pandering to Liberalsâ€™ worst instincts. But will moviegoers exhibit the same self-loathing as Boratâ€™s ass-kissing film critics?
His argument is that the film panders to the red state/blue state divide, that "Borat is not funnyâ€”except, perhaps, to 13-year-olds or people who imagine Cohenâ€™s targets (that is, other Americans) as mortal enemies."
White’s pretty much the lone dissenter here; J. Hoberman at the Voice in fact point out (with complementary intent) that "[Baron Cohen]’s target isn’t really an imaginary version of Nazerbayev’s nation (nor its enemies, the ‘evil nitwits’ of Uzbekistan); it is rather the domain of the ‘great warlord Premier Bush,’ red states in particular."
At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis note that a certain shocking scene in a gun store "may inspire accusations that Mr. Baron Cohen is simply trading on cultural and regional stereotypes, and he is, just not simply. The brilliance of ‘Borat’ is that its comedy is as pitiless as its social satire, and as brainy." At Salon, Stephanie Zacharek muses that "the true brilliance of ‘Borat’ may lie deeply buried between the almost infinite number of quotable lines: Sometimes we can’t face up to our own capacity for cruelty — but at least we can get a gag out of it."
Dana Stevens at Slate tries to classify the film, deciding that it’s not a parody, that it in fact "belongs to the tradition of the character-based spoof. Think of Peter Sellers in the original Pink Panther series or Mike Myers in the Austin Powers movies: comic performances so outsized they make the movie around them seem like mere decoration, an excuse for the character to exist." At Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman thinks that "it’s no reduction of Borat to say that the whole movie is a kind of slapstick psycho-political Jackass. It’s a comedy of global insanity in which Borat, the old-world specimen of masculis ignoramus from an underdeveloped half-Muslim nation, stands in for a world we didn’t have to think much about before 9/11, and the people Borat talks to become the symbolic heart of America â€” a place where intolerance is worn, increasingly, with pride."
Scott Foundas at LA Weekly proclaims that "Crash â€” to say nothing of Michael Moore â€” has nothing on this," though he wonders is "the most openly subversive movie funded by a major Hollywood studio in I donâ€™t know how long will also end up the ultimate proof of the impossibility of a truly vital American political cinema." And closing us out yet again is Anthony Lane at the New Yorker, who finds that "Borat" "offers comfort neither to Baron Cohenâ€™s onscreen victims nor to his audience; it is as if he were outraged by the business of our being humanâ€”as if, in laying bare our follies, he were just quickening the process by which we already make fools of ourselves."