New York lawyer David Owen (Tim Robbins) is going nuts. The noise of the big city is putting him over the edge especially when it comes to car alarms. His wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) and little girl (Gabrielle Brennan) are not quite sure what to make of his growing obsession with stopping the invasive noise but at first they indulge him. But as David's anger escalates and he begins to vandalize the shrieking cars--and get arrested in the process--he loses both his family and his job. Even that doesn't stop him. He turns into “The Rectifier ” a vigilante noise-abatement specialist who wields a hammer baseball bat and battery-wire cutters smashing cars all over town. And he becomes a city hero too much to the annoyance of the foul-mouthed mayor (William Hurt) and his overeager chief of staff (William Baldwin). David even finds a partner in crime (and in his bed) Ekaterina (Margarita Levieva) a beautiful young woman who offers up a more legal way to accomplish his goal of silencing the screeching autos. Robbins gives a completely believable performance as David a man at the end of his Noise rope. With his sad-sack face and towering body Robbins is the perfect picture of a New Yorker whose life has somehow spiraled out of his control. The only part of the scenario that is hard to believe is his ability to get gorgeous women to sleep with him; his central relationship with his wife (the as-always emotionless Bridget Moynahan who has a film career based solely on her beauty) is completely unbelievable and jars with the rest of the movie. More real is David’s slightly twisted relationship with Russian beauty Margarita Levieva as Ekaterina--at least it is conceivable that she is fascinated with his larger-than-life vigilante persona. Plus Levieva gives a lively fun performance that elevates every scene she is in. William Hurt and William Baldwin do a sort of Laurel and Hardy routine as the silly mayor and his right-hand man which is interesting to watch but sadly not very funny. And what is up with Hurt's dyed red hair? That's just weird. Noise’s writer/director Henry Bean uses a variety of film techniques including split screens time-shifting--even superimposing the text of a Hegel philosophical tract on the screen--creating visual interest in what is otherwise an often static story. But while the basic plot revolving around one man's obsession with ridding the city of noise is an interesting one the journey of the film is a slowly paced and talky slog. It isn't a good sign when one of the best moments of the whole movie comes as the credits roll as Bean's protagonist gleefully smashes the crap out of two cars with a baseball bat. Otherwise the movie is mostly about conversation as characters discuss ad nauseam the affect that noise has on humanity's collective psyche. The result is a film that fails to ignite our imagination or hold our interest.
Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) is a mischievous and sexually liberated student and aspiring painter in Mexico City when she first spies the much older prominent muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) cavorting with one of his models. Frida lives with her loving parents--Mexican mother German-Jewish father--and is intimately involved with her boyfriend. Tragedy strikes when Frida is gravely injured in a trolley crash and she never fully recovers. When her boyfriend takes off for Europe Kahlo focuses more on her paintings and boldly approaches Rivera for an honest appraisal of her work. Rivera well known for his marital infidelity and womanizing immediately recognizes Kahlo's talent and takes her under his wing as a protégée rather than a lover. An ardent Communist with a zest for socializing he introduces her to his artsy and progressive circles where Kahlo easily fits in. The pair soon become lovers and believing they have a special understanding of each other decide to marry. The union is immediately threatened when Kahlo learns that the hotheaded Lupe (Valeria Golino) one of Rivera's ex-wives occupies the apartment above theirs. After Rivera is awarded several commissions in the U.S. he and Kahlo begin their tour in New York and enjoy life as minor celebrities. Kahlo exercises her promiscuity by carrying on with one of Rivera's lovers and Rivera exercises his political intransigence with a fateful confrontation with Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton) who hired the artist to paint a mural in the Rockefeller Center lobby. The dust-up causes the loss of another commission and the couple returns to Mexico where they become hosts to fugitive Communist Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife. Kahlo has an affair with the legendary figure but when it threatens his marriage they move away and Trotsky is assassinated soon after. Rivera and Kahlo divorce but remarry when Rivera returns to his partner who is now impoverished and desperately ill.
The acting here is outstanding. Salma Hayek as the wild and quietly creative Kahlo is in practically every frame and dazzles in a variety of moods and situations. Alfred Molina in the more subtle role of Rivera is every bit as marvelous managing to charm and delight as a character who is essentially dissolute yet warm and lovable. Valeria Golino is another standout in the lesser role of the fiery Lupe. Geoffrey Rush makes a credible Trotsky and Ashley Judd pleases as a jovial Mexican party girl with a taste for mischief. Antonio Banderas does a neat cameo as a heated Communist and Edward Norton plays a very decent Rockefeller not shy about saying who pays the bills. Brits Roger Rees convincing as Kahlo's loving father and Saffron Burrows as Kahlo's loving diversion add heft to their supporting roles.
Julie Taymor best known for some very showy previous works like Broadway's The Lion King her feature debut Titus and a number of critically acclaimed operas proves again with Frida that she's an incomparable visual stylist. Taymor engages the eyes with a dazzling palette of Mexican colors and iconography and episodes of magical realism and mixed media invention that convey the intoxicating world of her subjects and the dramatic signature events of their lives. But Taymor (who also delivers a seductive majestic soundtrack) never loses sight of the fact that it is her beguiling characters who matter most.