It's taken 10 years for Salma Hayek to bring this biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to the screen. That's a lot of work and one hell of a lot of persistence, but the end result is just about worth it: this is a dramatically competent and visually arresting foray into the painter's life and work.
Having cast herself as the monobrowed surrealist, Hayek has neatly dodged the vanity project tag by surrounding her bold central performance with a gallery of international acting talent. She also does well in hiring Titus director Julie Taymor, a helmer whose visual sensibilities chime nicely with Kahlo's own.
Frida had some life: a horrific bus accident when she was just 18 left her seriously disabled, a tempestuous marriage to philandering muralist Diego Rivera (an excellent Alfred Molina), affairs with Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) and Italian photographer Tina Modotti (Ashley Judd)... Curiously, though, Frida is more engaging than truly captivating, despite having four scripters (plus Edward Norton, who cameos as mogul Nelson Rockefeller and did an uncredited last-minute rewrite).
The problem is a slight friction between form and content. For while Frida makes for an attractively unconventional heroine - - a hard-drinking, chain-smoking bisexual - - the film unspools on boringly conventional lines, episodically tracing the highs and lows of her life. It's only when Taymor presents vivid 3D visualisations of Kahlo's freakily autobiographical pictures that Frida escapes the shackles of hagiography and starts to capture the essence of its iconoclastic heroine.