DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FLOWER OF MY SECRET, THE (Flor de mi secreto, La) (director/writer: Pedro Almodovar; cinematographer: Affoso Beato; editor: Jose Salcedo; music: Alberto Iglesias; cast: Marisa Paredes (Leo Macias), Juan Echanove (Angel), Imanol Arias (Paco), Carmen Elias (Betty), Chus Lampreave (Mother), Manuela Vargas (Blanca), Joaquin Cortes (Antonio), Rossy de Palma (Rosa); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Augustin Almodovar/Esther Garcia; Sony Pictures Classics; 1995-Spain-In Spanish with English subtitles)

 
"I found this dramatization a mature Almodovar work, perceptive and cutting through in an incisive way to the everyday problems in life that wear people down."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another unconventional psychological drama that is more mainstream than the usual from Spain's bad boy Pedro Almodovar ("Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"/"Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!"). It is far tamer and more sincere than his usual outrages, and is more interested in mixing comedy and pathos than in shocking scenarios. This is an Almodovar film with depth and honest emotions, and one that finds its way to the heart without any excesses or tricks or need of kinky sexual escapades.

Marisa Paredes is just terrific as the lonely fortysomething Leo Macias, a romantic fluff writer using the pseudonym Amanda Gris, who some day wishes to write serious novels.  She hits the wall when her absentee NATO officer soldier hubby Paco (Imanol Arias), sent to Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission, rejects her and she refuses to acknowledge that their failing marriage is over. She finds herself trapped by her deceitful life and when she writes a serious book it is so bleak her publisher rejects it. 

Much of the film tracks down Marisa's insecurities and neuroses, that keep her bottled up and functioning under the guise of someone else. Supported in her time of need by a kind-hearted prospective suitor Angel (Juan Echanove), the cultural editor of El Pais a Madrid newspaper she seeks employment with in the hopes of finding a way out of her dilemma, as she starts to drink heavily and begins losing her skills as a popular writer. In an attempt to divorce herself from her past mistakes she writes under her real name, as Angel does not know her by her pen name. When Angel asks her to review Amanda Gris's book, Leo gets out of the assignment by saying how much she detests the author.

Marisa's family is of no help. She only bickers with her unhappy sister (Rossy de Palma) and can't listen to advice from her always complaining mother (Chus Lampreave), someone upset she left her rural village to live in Madrid and yearns to return to the place of her childhood happiness.

Almodovar is doing fine exploring in depth such emotions as grief and denial, that is until he comes up with a way Leo can get a hold of herself and become renewed to find a way out of her suicidal mood of despair. Thereby Leo suddenly sees the truth of her messy life, as she relates to one of those heroines in George Cukor's sentimental film Rich and Famous. It seemed a bit forced going down that route to find a way to communicate and restore a failing life through respect for another's elegance. But otherwise I found this dramatization a mature Almodovar work, perceptive and cutting through in an incisive way to the everyday problems in life that wear people down. 

REVIEWED ON 2/23/2004        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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