Can a unibrow be beautiful?

�������As a biography of the late Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the film “Frida” does not really achieve what most biographies aim to do: realistically portray the life of the subject.

Director Julie Taymor (“Titus” and Broadway’s “The Lion King”) forgets biographies historically are generally boring or at least incomprehensible and overly complex. Taymor fails to make Kahlo (played by Salma Hayek) take a supporting role to her famous artist husband, Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), and be just a housewife with a temper who likes to paint, too. Sure, “Frida” is based on a true story, but the movie is much too sensationalized to work as a solid biography.

We will leave behind the “failed biography” aspect of the movie and realize that “Frida” is less the story of Kahlo’s life and more the story of the lives of her bright, often shocking paintings.

The film is basically a series of live paintings separated only by the diversion of Kahlo living the inspirations for these works of art. Beginning when Kahlo is 18, Hayek appears onscreen with frizzy hair and a unibrow that, throughout the film, constantly reminds the audience of her beauty despite little things like un-plucked eyebrows.

Fortunately, Hayek’s good looks are rarely, if ever, exploited in the film. From Kahlo’s self-portraits (she places herself in most of her paintings), one might doubt the presence of overwhelming beauty in the painter. Hayek, fiery and charismatic, dominates every scene she is in, including those with her young, handsome and political boyfriend (Gael Garcia Bernal), whom you may recognize from the recent (and incredibly sexy) Mexican film “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”

Severe injuries from a bus accident when she was 18 plague Kahlo for the rest of her life but ultimately lead her to nurture her talent as an artist. The accident scene ends with a stark but magical image of Kahlo, bloody and unconscious in the ruins of the bus, being sprinkled with gold dust flying through the air. This is the first of many strong visuals in the film, pictures that not only mimic the mysticism in Kahlo’s actual paintings, but also reinforce the importance of the mixture of pain and splendor that occupy her art.

“Frida” follows Kahlo through discovering her artistic style, dealing with her marital troubles with her perpetually unfaithful husband, exploring bisexuality with glamorous women (though staying faithful to her husband by gender only), and having an affair with politician and writer Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush). Rush is a bit laughable in his portrayal of the thinker; he seems to be more of a perverted grandfather type than a serious, married man with a price on his head. Kahlo’s first brush with bisexuality is tainted only by the stiff, Mae-West-like performance of Ashley Judd (who has a very bad accent).

Traditional Mexican music flows through “Frida,” and the characters that sing to her dredge up passionate, heart-wrenching emotions rarely induced by modern performers. The pure intensity of these voices pull the audience further into Kahlo’s drunken bouts of depression or celebration. Integrated with the music, in the back- and foreground, is the significance of dress.

Hayek is costumed in paradoxical ways in many parts of the film. Kahlo is depressed, so she cuts off all her hair and looks increasingly masculine. She wears suits with collared shirts buttoned up to her neck and drinks straight from the liquor bottle.

Conversely, she climbs atop ancient structures with Trotsky on a good day and, with her hair up and braided with flowers, is the very picture of an Aztec princess. This film is stunning. From her bright blue house and the matching peacock in the courtyard to the paintings that turn into reality, Kahlo’s artistic style is drawn out and flamboyantly displayed throughout the entire film.

The film may not have captured the biting reality of Kahlo’s pained life, but director Taymor certainly found a way to grab the feeling of Frida’s paintings and recreate the effects onscreen.

“Frida” is all the visual entertainment you will need for the rest of the year.