Penélope Cruz received her first Oscar nomination for playing Raimunda, a woman having a troubled life in Volver. If Helen Mirren hadn't been there, I actually would have bet on Penélope Cruz even though I think Meryl Streep got more votes. However, if the two had been there with each other (without Mirren), I think Cruz would have won the Oscar. First of all, she had the cool factor. Second, she had the "Oh! You're not just sexy, you can also act" (as if they hadn't seen All about my Mother). Plus, she's one of the sexiest actresses alive, so the babe factor also helped her. The only thing going against her was the foreign language.
Volver is a terrific film, way better than all of the other movies of Cruz's fellow nominees combined. Almodóvar is such a masterful director. His movies are incredibly loud, over-the-top, colourful and, I dare say, quite vulgar and yet one just cannot take their eyes off the screen. Fantastic, even though it's not even the best work of the director. Carmen Maura is an actress who always impresses me with her unique talent and this movie is not different.
However, there's one and only one person truly in the spotlight. And that's Penélope Cruz. And it's no wonder. Sometimes I'm a bit sceptical about her (when I don't see her acting) but every time I see her I'm impressed, even by things like Nine. Naturally, she's so sexy and yet there's something really mysterious about her. Her sexiness is not pushy and it doesn't come to your face, you just feel it and it's so great about her.
As Raimunda, Penélope Cruz gives probably the biggest performance of her career. I'm not saying best because it's arguable wheter she was better in All about my Mother. However, this really juicy leading role is something that's a real gift in the life of a performer and I'm quite certain that Penélope was also aware of that. She did everything to be great and I believe she succeeded.
The resemblances between Penélope in this movie and Sophia Loren are just undeniable. Naturally, Raimunda is a character who would have been played by Sophia forty-five years ago. Raimunda is loud but repressed and she's quite earthy. I always felt that Raimunda had a background, a real backstory but everything was so shady. It was wonderful to see Penélope peel all the layers from this character and show the disturbing truth behind the loudness.
I would say that this is a loud role but I would never say that Penélope is too over-the-top and hysterical. She does everything so naturally and I could always so believe that she's this hard-working woman with lots of problems in her life. There's lots of deglam in the role and yet Cruz has just as much dignity and grace as Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and I'm not kidding. I mean, we take Penélope seriously after we see her sitting on the toilet, after she says that it smells like a fart and so on. Almodóvar wrote lots of crazy, unbelievable things to his wonderful screenplay and Penélope delivered all the lines and stupid things as if she went to a store to ask for some milk.
I am also crazy about how well Penélope was able to show both Raimunda's toughness and softness. SPOILER ON! When she finds out that her husband was killed by her daughter, we hear her screaming and a couple of minutes later she's washing the blood at the kitchen SPOILER OFF! I mean, it's againg so insane and unbelievable and yet I just loved that Raimunda was so quick-thinking. All the inner demons that she has are revealed to the audience by the greatness of Penélope Cruz. When I first saw the movie when it was released, I would not have believed all the things that happened to Raimunda because Penélope was so mysterious. In time, however, all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall into the right place and I become blown away by Cruz's achievement. She almost told everything and yet we didn't suspect anything. Masterful, by all means.
Furthermore, the chemistry among the four leading ladies is just unbelievably great. I mean, it's so FAIR that they all won Best Actress together at Cannes. They are really like the Spanish, female version of The A-Team, a bit like the Foxy Chicks mentioned in Pulp Fiction or The Golden Girls. They are just brilliant together and everyone has her own territory. Cruz is, obviously, the leader of the group. She has the smarts and the troubled past.
And those scene, kids! Oh my goodness. Whenever she hugs her daughter or another member of her family, there's an earthquake and thunderball. So many honest, deep, female emotions going on there, on the screen. Oh, just wonderful. But I could also mention the scene where she's crying quietly after she doesn't want to make love to her disgusting husband and listents to him having fun alone. I could mention probably all of the scenes, actually, but I won't. She's just as great as she is. I don't want to pick a favorite scene because I can't (OK, for a bit naughty reasons, I like who she does the washing-up). But I would be so unfair if I didn't mention her heartbreaking song, Volver. That scene is cathartic, if I may say so.
OMG, I was a bit long, I know but if there's a performance that you feel really passionate about, you just cannot stop. As I finished writing, I've become dead certain that Penélope Cruz gives her absolute best performance in Volver as Raimunda, a very complicated and tough woman. This is not only a beautiful achievement but also a tearjerking tribute to an acting style that has unfortunately died somewhere. But we need this type of performances, too. Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar are probably the saviours of the Raimundas of the cinema. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
So what do you think? I've got a lot of things to think about until the conclusion.