(The Saul Zaentz Company)
Those expecting a lavish biopic a la Amadeus from the Academy Award-winning director of that acclaimed movie will be disappointed here. Eighteenth-century Spanish painter Francisco Goya is a supporting character in a euro-pudding of international actors that never gels, a loose parable on war and its vagaries without a centre. Ines (Natalie Portman), the daughter of a wealthy merchant and a muse to Goya (Stellan Skarsgård), is imprisoned by the agents of the Inquisition and tortured into confessing heresy. Brother Lorenzo (Javier Bardem) takes pity on her---and advantage of her---and then, reporting back to her parents, faces a test of his own commitment to god. Though Forman illustrates how torture is no path to truth, he loses the plot by fast-forwarding 15 years to Napoleon and the French invasion of Spain. Now an agent of the French ruler, Lorenzo is a changed man, but we never understand his conscience or faith. And Goya’s passion for Ines is unconvincing, compared to, say, Vermeer and his subject in The Girl With The Pearl Earring. The final flub that sinks it: casting Portman as both Ines and her daughter, Alicia. That never works and Portman, though talented, has shown in this and The Other Boleyn Girl that corseted dramas aren’t her strong suit.