A Matador’s Mistress

Side Note

This movie is also known as Manolete, The Passion Within, or Blood and Passion.

When Manolo met Lupe

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’s Role

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.

Image result for manolete adrien brody

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.

Nitpick Time

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.

Nacho (left), and Mark-Paul (right)

In Closing

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



Author: Patricia Henderson

Patricia Henderson is a 40-something from Northern California. She has loved both movies and writing since she was a child, so this was a logical choice.

2 thoughts on “A Matador’s Mistress”

  1. The Matador’s Mistress is one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s a mess. It’s almost like they quit on it and then later decided to piece some scenes together in an attempt to recoup some of their losses. I wonder if they realized a movie about bullfighting would be too controversial to an American audience and sort of gave up. In spite of the weird pacing and weak storytelling, I enjoyed watching it simply because it looks like a 1950s era travel brochure. The funeral scene intercut with footage from the real funeral was stunning.


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