Thursday, June 13, 2024

“EMILIA PÉREZ”

THE STORY – A woman is tasked with assisting an escaped Mexican cartel leader undergo gender-affirming surgery to both evade the authorities and affirm her gender.

THE CAST – Karla Sofía Gascón, Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña & Édgar Ramírez

THE TEAM – Jacques Audiard (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 130 Minutes


It’s a common complaint that the state of storytelling in modern cinema can often fall back on tired and familiar tropes. Sure, this is always motivated by a lack of certainty within the marketplace, and proven ideas are always the path of least resistance in a risk-averse industry. However, there remain occasions when there is a hunger for something more unique. There is a desire for a piece of storytelling that breaks the established norms of what should be accepted and provides a showcase for something bold and daring. It’s difficult to imagine anything more singular than a Mexican-set crime melodrama that revolves around a major trans storyline all wrapped up in a flashy musical, but that’s precisely what “Emilia Pérez” delivers with grandiose spectacle.

The beginning of this tale starts with Ruth (Zoe Saldaña), an eager lawyer working in Mexico who is abruptly and forcefully contacted by Manitas, the head of one of the country’s most dangerous cartels. He tells her that he wishes for one of his deepest desires to be realized: to become a woman. He sets Ruth on the path to finding a qualified doctor, sparing no expense so he can realize this dream. The procedure is set, and his wife (Selena Gomez) and children are sent out of the country, and Manitas fakes his death. Four years pass, and Ruth is introduced to this dangerous criminal, now completely transformed into Emilia Pérez (Karla Sofía Gascón). Under the pretense of being a distant relative, Emilia invites her family to stay in her lavish estate. Here, she reignites old passions, discovers new purposes, and reveals hidden secrets that threaten to tear apart the fragile new life she has already built over the years.

Jacques Audiard’s filmography may not always telegraph complete reinvention with every entry, but there is a thread to follow that shows an interest in crafting new narratives from fresh perspectives. The prison epic of “A Prophet” is a giant swing away from a quirky western like “The Sisters Brothers,” and he applies that innovation once again. It’s not an entirely coherent work, to be sure. The ambitions can get carried away in the storytelling, which can switch these characters’ viewpoints at an arbitrary juncture. While it can make a linear sense why Ruth would be so dominant at first before Emilia enters the fold, it speaks to an imbalance in the story that isn’t perfectly calibrated. What is clear, though, is that the enthusiastic passion that Audiard captures is hard to ignore as he colors the world in vibrant visuals and an impactful soundscape.

The musical sequences are an oddity to themselves, giving the film that distinctive style while in a manner that can confound as much as it delights. The choreography has a rough-around-the-edges quality to it as if it were designed more for amateur theater than a lavish professional production. Yet, this endeavor has an undeniable charm, which further highlights the chaotic but passionate emotion that runs through. These scenes can sometimes be filmed in a stilted fashion with awkward conclusions, but sincerity is felt throughout. The same can be said for the songs as well, an array of catchy numbers that can sound flavored with a pop sensibility but continually manage to be effective earworms. The whole portrait is meant to be an engrossing display, even if the execution is far from perfect.

As the headliner, Saldaña provides an impressive turn that is a perfect introduction to this world. She shows a woman of steadfast determination who never loses sight of her humanity. She does a commendable job performing the musical numbers and making them come to life with her screen presence. Gomez may be the more experienced performer when it comes to musicals, but she’s not as successful in establishing a more potent connection. A part of this is due to the construction of the character, but she does struggle on her own to manifest a more engaging persona. There’s a fun addition in Edgar Ramirez appearing as Gomez’s new lover at the very end, but there’s not much to the role outside of the bare minimum of what he brings as a performer.

However, the true standout here is Gascón. It is absolutely stunning to watch her imbue this character with a ferocity that would be present from such a violent individual while also capturing the tenderness slowly revealed through her new circumstances. There is a playful sinisterness that she conveys in every line reading, even when appearing to be genuinely remorseful and seeking reformation. It’s what keeps this woman so fascinating, and the sense of unpredictable danger that lies beneath the surface makes her all the more compelling. What’s especially notable is how easily this character could have regressed into a horrible stereotype but is given the full breadth of humanity instead. The foundation established by the script helps, but Gascón also plays it beautifully. She can be threatening but also touching in her presence, always captivating in every delivery and a sensation to behold.

Every inch of “Emilia Pérez” is full of vivid life that it’s difficult not to be overtaken by it. At the same time, it is not without its faults. One can greatly appreciate the grandiose exhibition that is put on with a fantastic sense of showmanship while also lamenting that the presentation leaves a little to be desired. However, the filmmaking is jubilant enough to compensate for this aspect, and the performances are enthralling as well, particularly from an incredible Karla Sofía Gascón. There are few things that can be seen right now quite like this film, an act it ardently embraces and is extremely valued.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The film is an ambitious showcase of creative storytelling and filmmaking, with catchy tunes and engaging visual spectacle. The performances are all good, but Karla Sofía Gascón is a particular revelation and is exceptional in her portrayal.

THE BAD - The musical set pieces can feel a bit amateurish in their presentation, which can detract from the overall engagement. The narrative also switches perspectives in a manner that is abrupt and jarring with the natural rhythm.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Picture, Best International Feature, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score & Best Original Song

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>The film is an ambitious showcase of creative storytelling and filmmaking, with catchy tunes and engaging visual spectacle. The performances are all good, but Karla Sofía Gascón is a particular revelation and is exceptional in her portrayal.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The musical set pieces can feel a bit amateurish in their presentation, which can detract from the overall engagement. The narrative also switches perspectives in a manner that is abrupt and jarring with the natural rhythm.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-picture/">Best Picture</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-director/">Best Director</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-actress/">Best Actress</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/">Best Supporting Actress</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-film-editing/">Best Film Editing</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-original-score/">Best Original Score</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-original-song/">Best Original Song</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"EMILIA PÉREZ"