Almodovar loves women. He thinks they are amazing, powerful, beautiful creatures that one ought worship on high. He is fascinated by their otherness, their bodies, their faces, their tears, the way they walk, the choices they make. He is thrilled by their hidden resources of strength, their inherent toughness, and simultaneously moved by their defenselessness and vulnerability. His women totter bravely through life on impossibly high heels and the camera watches their incredible hips sway awkwardely as they struggle with their burdens. It's a fascinating vision of women, not less so because it's so obviously a fantasy. There's something kind of touching about this man who so badly wants to understand what the world looks like from a woman's point of view, and is so very very wrong. Yes, part of me is appalled by this othering of women, and irritated by the objectification lurking beneath this idolatry. But on the other hand, I can't help but be drawn to a film that has such a coherent and well realized idea behind it. He has a very clear and consistent style. As a result, his movies kind of seem like variations on a theme - you've seen one and you sort of get the gist - but they're enjoyable nonetheless.
Penelope Cruz does a truly epic job as the main star. Her gigantic eyes are brimming with tears for half the movie, and her body, one feels, practically deserves to be credited on its own, because so much of the action of the movie revolves around watching her incredible curves move.
Volver is an elegant movie. It's very precise; all the loose ends are tied up. It's got a pleasing sort of geometry to it, which I'm a total sucker for, even if it does make for a rather predictable film. It's also quite funny, in a lovely, absurdist sort of way. I suppose the film is meant to be a meditation of mother-daughter relationships, but honestly, I didn't find that particularly compelling. Your reflections on human relationships just aren't that convincing when all of your characters are walking abstractions. Some of them are more successful than others - the pot smoking cancer victim subplot didn't do much for me, honestly. But Almodovar makes up for it by casting women who have truly fascinating faces, so even if you don't find a characters particularly compelling, you enjoy looking at her anyhow. I mean, it's his greatest strength, as a director - he's interesting, visually. It's eye candy.
I suspect that most people who loved this movie - because many people did, I think - appreciated very different aspects of it than I did. All in all though, I recommend it. It's ann entertaining way to spend 2 hours. It's interesting, in that it's a movie that makes a curious kind of impression on you. I am already forgetting large parts of the plot, and yet, I have a strong sense of the film still in the back of my mind. Hmmm.