and Paul Chi
February 14, 2011 12:00 PM

Biutiful

Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Cheng Tai Shen | R |

DRAMA

Biutiful is about compromise-and being compromised. Uxbal (Bardem) is a loving father, but he supports his kids by exploiting immigrant labor. He talks to the dead for their relatives, but always for a fee. He’s also dying. Getting his affairs in order, Uxbal tries to reconcile with his bipolar wife (Alvarez) and help his workers, but fixes don’t come easily. In spite of the moral ambiguity, Bardem is as riveting as he is wrenching (even in subtitles). His Oscar-nominated performance centers a film that sprawls too far in scope, when all we need to know is written on that deeply expressive face.

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