‘Pain and Glory’ reviews: Antonio Banderas gives ‘quite possibly his finest’ performance in his ode to Almodovar

Could Antonio Banderas finally be on his way to his first Oscar nomination — and maybe even a win? The Spanish actor has often been overlooked as a heartthrob, but his performance in “Pain and Glory,” which reunites him with director Pedro Almodovar to play a semi-autobiographical version of the filmmaker, might just do the trick. The film opened on October 4, and the reviews have mostly been glowing.

As of this writing the film has a MetaCritic score of 85 based on 25 reviews counted thus far: 22 positive, 3 somewhat mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, which rates films strictly on a pass/fail basis, it has a freshness rating of 96% based on 132 reviews: 127 positive and only 5 negative. The RT critics’ consensus says, “‘Pain and Glory’ finds writer-director Pedro Almodóvar drawing on his own life to rewarding effect — and honoring his craft as only a master filmmaker can.”

That’s an overwhelming seal of approval, though that’s not necessary a surprise for one of the world’s most distinctive and renowned filmmakers. Almodovar has been a favorite of Oscar voters in the past too. His “All About My Mother” (1999) won Spain one of its four prizes for Best Foreign Language Film (a category redubbed this year as Best International Feature). Then Almodovar won an Oscar of his own: Best Original Screenplay for “Talk to Her” (2002). He was also nominated for directing that film, and perhaps surprisingly that has been his only recognition to date.

Banderas has never even been nominated, though, despite a resume that includes Oscar contenders “Philadelphia” (1993), “Evita” (1996) and “Frida” (2002). But other awards groups have taken notice: he has been nominated for two Emmys, four Golden Globes and a Tony. So this may be a good opportunity for the motion picture academy to finally catch up, especially since critics say “this is quite possibly his finest” performance, a “revelation,” a “fond tribute” to Almodovar and “its own layered creation.” This performance won him Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival too.

Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion with your fellow movie fans here in our forums.

Stephanie Zacharek (Time): “I’ve always loved the colors in Almodóvar’s movies. But it’s only after seeing his latest, the achingly beautiful ‘Pain and Glory’ … that I think I finally understand the way he uses them … Banderas’ performance — although he’s nearly always terrific, this is quite possibly his finest — is so fine-grained in its attentiveness to every nuance of physical and psychic suffering that you can’t help thinking Almodóvar is speaking through him.”

Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal): “‘Pain and Glory’ would be a treat if it had nothing to offer but Mr. Banderas. Over all these years he’s been so charming, so effortlessly and irresistibly winning, that his performance here is a revelation … Happily, though, this new Almodóvar film is anything but a one-man show.”

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “It’s both a fond tribute and its own layered creation, etched in every well-earned line on the actor’s still obscenely handsome face … In the scheme of Almodóvar’s rich catalogue, ‘Pain’ is probably too small, too sad, and too obtuse to really recommend as any kind of starting point. For longtime fans, though, it’s a gift; the kind of quiet glory worth waiting a few decades for.”

Wendy Ide (Screen Daily): “It’s frequently a very stylish piece of filmmaking — scenes are elegantly bridged by a diegetic piece of piano music; the design, colour blocked and accented with copious use of scarlet, is arresting. But the picture is not always as involving as it might be – like Salvador, the story keeps the audience at a cautious distance.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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