Javier BardemPenelope Cruz...
Fernando León de Aranoa
In 1 Cinema
Loving Pablo is the story of the rise and fall of Colombia’s most infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem). Mainly based on the memoir by his longtime mistress Virginia Vallejo (Penélope Cruz) – titled Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar– the film follows the two’s love affair and Pablo’s reign of dominance, as seen from the perspective of Vallejo.
The life of Pablo Escobar has been a popular subject for many films and series, so is this film’s depiction anything special? Well, only in theory.
The film’s supposed unique aspect comes from it being told and viewed from the perspective of Escobar’s mistress Virginia Vallejo. Loving Pablo, however, does so quite superficially by providing an omniscient narrator –Vallejo- providing voice over of the film’s events, even when she is not involved in them. The film utilises the voice-over tool in an extremely amateur fashion, with Cruz narrating events that are quite self-explanatory; for example, at some point Cruz recites “Pablo introduces me to his associates.” Indeed, if the purpose of this tool is to provide unique insight into a given character’s mind, then the film should not have said character commentating on each and every part of the film’s plot. This is a film, not a football match: commentary is neither needed nor expected through the film’s entirety.
Another issue with the execution of this narrative tool was the lines that Cruz was reciting. The lines muster up a cheesy soap opera feel: “If you’re going to cry over a man, better to do it on a private jet than on a bus,” Cruz says in one occasion.
The film also tries to focus on the effect of the affair on Vallejo’s life, but this aspect remains eclipsed by the fact that Escobar is always the focus. As such, the film fails to deliver on its first promise: recounting the story of Escobar’s reign through the eyes of his mistress. Consequently, the film does not provide a unique exploration of Pablo Escobar, like the one provided in series such as Narcos.
As for the acting, Bardem nails the ruthless drug lord role but his performance does not stand out as the best Pablo Escobar ever performed. Penélope Cruz was a perfect casting choice, with her flirtatious demeanour, sexy body language, and her cheeky smiles and gazes. Cruz, however, tumbles in a couple of crying scenes that were very noticeably completely over the top and bordered on coming across as fake. We can’t speak of Cruz, without mentioning how one element of the film’s mise en scene especially helped her: the costumes. While all the film’s costumes were quite notable, in Cruz’s case they genuinely brought life and spark to the character she was playing.
Loving Pablo is interesting but whether or not it is worth a ticket is highly debatable.