This movie is also known as Manolete, The Passion Within, or Blood and Passion.
Cast: Adrien Brody, Penelope Cruz, Santiago Segura, Josep Linuesa, Nacho Aldeguer
Written by: Menno Meyjes
Directed by: Menno Meyjes
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Released: September 6, 2008 (Toronto Film Festival)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (I would say PG-13, leaning toward R)
Adrien trained with a dialect coach for this film, but ended up using his own voice/accent, with a few random words pronounced accurately. Sort of like an American newscaster (you know what I’m talking about).
I’m not sure why this happened, given the character he played was a real person born and raised in Spain. Perhaps trying the accent was distracting him too much from the emotional parts, so they scrapped it. Whatever the reason, it’s distracting to have the lead sound American, when everyone else sounds Spanish.
Adrien Brody portrays Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez, also known as “Manolete” (or Manolo), one of the most famous and well-liked bullfighters of all time. Manolete was often described as having a “sad face,” which has also been said of Adrien. This was a good casting choice, though Brody is taller, and subjectively more handsome.
What I Liked
If you are a regular reader of this blog, the following will sound familiar. Adrien Brody is very good at playing people from an earlier period. He has the sort of classic appearance that allows him to blend in as if he belongs in, say, the 1940s (also demonstrated in The Pianist, and The Thin Red Line). So, in short, he is believable in the part, look wise.
He also definitely put in his Method work to look like he actually fights bulls. He started out a scared kid, and became more and more skilled. It was very believable.
What I Didn’t Like
I’ve mentioned this, but I just have to go back to it again. How does one play a famous man from Spain and not sound the part? It is extremely distracting, making it seem as though Brody is portraying an American matador working in Spain.
I just want to point out, if he hadn’t done a convincing Polish accent in The Pianist, he most likely wouldn’t have an Oscar. I’m just saying.
What I Liked, Continued
The costuming is very well done. Not just the bullfighting costumes (which are stunning), but the everyday clothing, as well. The way Lupe’s (Cruz) look changes throughout the course of the film was good storytelling on its own.
As she grew more serious about her relationship with Manolo, she began dressing down, and wore less makeup, to be more “acceptable.” She even removed the gold tooth she wore at the start, of which, she explained, “now I’m a lady.” Manolete’s entourage didn’t like Lupe one bit when she first appeared in his life, and were very open about this disapproval. As the movie went on, they seemed to warm up to her… at least somewhat, as her appearance softened.
What I Didn’t Like, Part Two
The timeline is confusing. The movie is told in flashbacks, but they jump all over, chronologically. It is distracting to the point of making the film less enjoyable than it has the potential to be. Once things catch up to what is happening “live,” so to speak, then the narrative flow improves.
Something else distracting, that perhaps should not have been, was the character Luis Miguel Dominguín (Aldeguer), a young rival of Manolete’s. Manolete largely sees him as an annoyance, more than a threat. A buzzing mosquito. So does the audience. The character is a spoiled brat type you just want to slap!
Here’s the nitpicky part… he resembles Mark-Paul Gosselaar of “Saved By the Bell” fame. He just… does. It’s like watching Zach Morris fighting bulls, and whining like an entitled punk. The following comparison doesn’t quite capture it, but you get the idea.
Everything from the chronology that feels like it was put on shuffle play, to the fake butt they put on Penelope Cruz, to yes, Manolo’s Queens accent, take away from this movie. It could have been a moving tribute to a beloved bullfighter, but it fell short.
Movie Overall: 5/10
Brody Performance: 6/10