With The Flower of My Secret (1995), Almodovar comes perilously close to making a straightforward soap opera in the grand 1950s Hollywood tradition — or as straightforward as Almodovar can be. If the film had come from almost anyone else, it would be considered at the very least slightly bizarre. For Almodovar, however, it’s surprisingly subdued. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that it’s in any way ordinary or that it takes itself too seriously.
The premise is certainly movie-ish in the extreme. Leo Macias (Marisa Paredes, High Heels) is a famous writer of trashy romance novels, who hides behind the pseudonym Amada Gris. Fabulously successful, but in the middle of a failing marriage and at the beginning of a serious drinking problem, Leo loathes her life and her work — the latter to such a degree that she gets a job at a newspaper as a literary critic and trashes them. The film follows her through the break-up of her marriage, through a suicide attempt, a virtual breakdown and on into a surprisingly hopeful ending. (How hopeful is left to question, since as he often does at the end of his films, Almodovar reverts to a tableau approach, keeping his distance from the characters and keeping their full emotions out of our range.)
If it isn’t as successful as his very best work, neither is it a failure — and there are certainly enough Alomodovarisms to bring a smile to anyone’s face (pay particular attention to the plot of Leo’s attempt at a serious novel — it’d make a great Almodovar picture).