I wanted to open by comparing the excellence level of this film to another excellent (albeit utterly different) film, The Squid and the Whale, but I realized that in my holidaze torpor, I'd completely forgotten to write a review for it...along with Match Point, the Gay Cowboy Movie, and several popular books that other casual readers of communicatrix-dot-com could flame me about.
Perhaps I'll get around to that review someday; perhaps not. I fear part of what stops me from posting reviews is my tendency to prattle on. I fear another part of what stops me is my fear, funny, that. Even critiquing other people's work, I fear I'll never be good enough.
At any rate, The Matador is fun...and serious. It's breezy and rooted; it's formulaic and utterly surprising. It has that marvelous sense-of-place thing I love about my favorite flickeroos, along with beautiful photography, can't-catch-'em-doing-it acting and flawless dialogue.
What it doesn't have going for it (much like The Squid and the Whale and Match Point) is a good title. Bullfighting?! Bleh. There is, however, precious little bullfighting that takes place in The Matador, and I was able to spend most of its screentime refreshing myself in the fabulous powder room of the new Century City Theatres. Frankly, I'm having problems with the metaphorical aspect of matadors and this film. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure that hired killing and hired bull-killing have a lot in common. There's the, um, killing thing. And the exotic locales thing.
Really, I suppose the closest comparison is that matadors and hired assassins are an elite, and perhaps a dying breed, at least, when played with the style and wit of the former .007. (The gloriously-and-yet-never-boringly-middle-class-ness of Greg Kinnear and the always amazing Hope Davis go a long way towards setting that off.)
There is abundant wit and style to The Matador, but it's built upon a firm foundation of story and skill too rarely found these days.
Perhaps great, surprising film itself is the metaphor. So much of what we're subjected to as moviegoers is so...unsurprising. Clunky. Obvious. Modern-in-a-bad-way. The Matador, on the other hand, is both timely and a throwback, like most timeless things.
Image via The Sun-Times.com