Cannes 2009: The Tomato Report ? Almodovar's Broken Embraces a Comfortable Favourite

While Jim Carrey is unrecognisable in I Love You Phillip Morris.

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Pedro Almodovar is a firm favourite in Cannes, so it's no surprise to see his new film Broken Embraces receiving largely positive reviews from the assembled critics. The director's first foray into film noir territory since Bad Education half a decade ago, the movie stars long-time collaborator Penelope Cruz as a beautiful actress who owes her career to her elderly millionaire lover, and Screen Daily's Barry Byrne calls it "a sleek post-Oscar vehicle" for the star.

Byrne also writes that it will satisfy admirers of the director's work. "Fans of Almodovar will get plenty of what they expect here - rich saturated colours, hyper plotting, stylistic pyrotechnics and off-centre comedy."

Peter Bradshaw, of The Guardian, echoes this sentiment, declaring it to be "a richly enjoyable piece of work, slick and sleek, with a sensuous feel for the cinematic surfaces of things and, as ever, self-reflexively infatuated with the business of cinema itself." However, he also adds "It doesn't quite match the heartfelt power of his 2006 Cannes contender, Volver."

It's a criticism shared by David Gritten in the Daily Telegraph, who agrees that Almodovar, "remains a distinctive stylist and a dazzling film-maker with technique to burn," but adds that, "while his new film parades his many virtues, it treads water rather than breaks new ground."

Cannes 2009
Penelope Cruz in Almodovar's Broken Embraces

Emanuel Levy summarises this opinion. "Stylistically compelling but thematically familiar, Almodovar's 17th film is a summation work in which he reworks ideas, characters and genres that had intrigued him for three decades."

Wendy Ide of The Times was even more critical, stating that Broken Embraces "feels like a mixed bag of smart ideas and nods to other pictures, rather than a coherent, distinct work of art."

After 8 reviews counted, the film sits at 86% on the Tomatometer, with the general consensus swaying towards cautious optimism if not outright praise.

Jim Carrey caused quite the stir when he arrived on the Croisette to publicise A Christmas Carol on Monday, but today all the talk was of his performance in the forthcoming tragic-comedy I Love You Phillip Morris, co-starring Ewan McGregor.

Based on a remarkable true story, the film tells the tale of Stephen Russell, whose love for the titular Phillip Morris -- a man he meets in jail -- causes him to commit a series of increasingly outlandish crimes.

Cannes 2009
Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris

Writing for Variety, John Anderson called it Carrey's "most complicated comedic role since The Cable Guy" and calls his character "so criminal and gay it will leave audiences both laughing and stunned."

Damon Wise for The Times agrees. It's a "funny, sometimes tender and ultimately unsettling black comedy," he says. "These directors know what they're doing. Just when you think you have this sweet but seemingly lightweight movie figured out, it ends with a sucker punch that forces you to re-evaluate everything."

The film is 4 for 4 fresh on the Tomatometer, but with only a limited number of reviews coming out of Cannes and, earlier, Sundance. This looks like a film which could sneak up on audiences when it does roll out for release -- we've witnessed buzz developing on it over two years at the Cannes festival now.

Join us again soon when, finally, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds plays for the Cannes crowd and we find out whether the expedited shoot, leaked script and lots of hype has resulted in a whopping 2 hours and 40 minutes of cinematic pleasure or pain.