It hasn’t been very long since I reviewed All About My Mother (1999) for a special showing of the film, and the best I can do without repeating myself is to direct readers to the Xpress online movie review archives on the Web site. I will note, however, that I had not seen Almodovar’s The Flower of My Secret (1995) at the time of that review, and it’s worth pointing out that there’s a fascinating connection between the two films — which I won’t spoil for anyone, because it’s so essentially Almodovar to find this kind of playful link between films. I’ll also add that plot-wise, All About My Mother may be his most outlandish work, yet it’s one in which all the outrageousness is made to seem completely real because of the context. If this isn’t his finest film to date, it’s certainly in the top three.
Original review from Mar, 15 2006
At one point in Ronald Neame’s The Horse’s Mouth, the outrageous artist Gulley Jimson (Alec Guinness) is giving painting lessons and advises one student, “Nothing niggling, mind you, I want to hear the paint going on.” That’s pretty much the way Pedro Almodovar makes films — fully embracing his subjects fearlessly, slapping his vividly colored stories of larger-than-life characters on the screen with wild abandon.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in his 1999 Oscar-winner (the Academy can’t always be wrong) All About My Mother, an incredibly rich story that might best be described as an epic soap opera made by an artist. The story — which manages to incorporate Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ All About Eve and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire into its fabric — is an over-the-top collection of outrageous characters in improbable circumstances that all manage to interconnect, forming a film of incredible power, humor and finally beauty.
How outrageous is it? Well, there’s a sudden death, a heart transplant, a woman who was married to a half-transsexual, a half-transsexual hooker with a heart of gold, a lesbian actress in love with her drug-addicted protege, a social worker nun pregnant with the child of a half-transsexual … there’s even something that might be a miracle. The amazing thing is that within the confines of Almodivar’s film — of his world — all of this becomes wholly believable on its own terms. By the end, all of the characters seem painfully real — and you realize you’re in the presence of one of the great artists of film. Rated R for sexuality including strong sexual dialogue, language and some drug content.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke