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The Independent Critic

Frida Kahlo (Archival)
Carla Gutierrez
Rated R
87 Mins.
Amazon Prime Video

 Movie Review: Frida 
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It could, I suppose, be argued that we already know all there is to know about Frida Kahlo. Easily one of the past century's most recognizable names in art, Kahlo's life has already been explored in a variety of ways from the 2002 Oscar-winning flick starring Salma Hayek to a 2020 feature doc and a 2021 docu-series. Yet, I'm nearly ready to proclaim that Carla Gutierrez's Amazon Studios release may very well be the definitive work for one of history's most well-known women, controversial and glorious as she was known to be. 

Gutierrez's Frida vibrantly and powerfully and tenderly captures the complexity of the disabled queer artist whose work continues to transfix art lovers nationwide even as Frida the person remains an oft-misunderstood and sugar-coated human being. Gutierrez's approach to storytelling is unique - it will work for some while others may find it amplifies an already amplified artist. Gutierrez has unearthed Kahlo's own words from diaries, interviews, letters, and more and allowed it to manifest as a narration that companions the film (brought to life by actors representing Kahlo, her two-time husband Diego Rivera, and other key figures). While documentaries tend to defer to talking head interviews, Frida animates Kahlo's life quite beautifully with visual imagery of photographs, archival footage, and brilliantly rendered animations of Kahlo's paintings that kept me mesmerized from beginning to end. 

At times, truthfully, the animation becomes a bit much as it seems to dominate the artist. However, it's purpose is clear and often remarkably effective. 

Frida captures the fullness of Kahlo and not just the pop culture icon we find on walls and billboards and weird products everywhere. The real Kahlo is more complex and Frida invites us to see her frustrations with being a Mexican artist whose work was often misunderstood in other parts of the world, a female artist in a male-dominated world, and an incredibly sexual human being in an increasingly disabled body and identifying with a queerness in a world not quite ready for it. 

Gutierrez allows Kahlo to peacefully exist within her identities - I will confess some dismay that the possibility of her having been born with spina bifida wasn't more fully explored, however, it's also known Kahlo had multiple other health issues and the spina bifida has never been confirmed. 

Frida is an emotionally resonant film as much as it is visually mesmerizing. Gutierrez brings to life Kahlo's episodes of intense grief and how her chronic illnesses impacted her daily life and her art. It isn't portrayed histrionically. It's portrayed as part of the identity that brought to life her works. 

Just as vividly, Gutierrez captures Kahlo's increasing disdain for the United States and France and the roles she was forced to portray to live as an artist. The film also captures her necessity as she aged and became more disabled to use her talent to pay her medical bills and often her practitioners directly. 

Remarkable in a myriad of ways and never less than captivating, Frida is a complex portrayal of a complex woman whose life we think we already know. Frida proves we don't yet will very much want to do so. As the closing credits were rolling, I found myself already climbing down the internet rabbit hole further exploring Kahlo's life. 

Frida arrives on Amazon's Prime Video on March 15th. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic