Andrea’s Angle | “Carmen” – Beautiful Performances, but Confusing


I was really looking forward to this film that reimagines the opera, Carmen. I love classical music and operatic dramas, so I was interested to see what a modern retelling would do with the story. While the dancing and music are beautifully executed, with most of the music original to the film and the actors’ performance dynamic, the story not only wanders but is confusing, not allowing a connection to the performers and very little character development.

Carmen is a musical drama film directed by Benjamin Millepied in his feature directorial debut from a screenplay by Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Loïc Barrère, and Millepied from a screen story by Millepied and Barrère. In the film, a young woman Carmen (Melissa Barrera), is forced to flee her home after her mother is murdered. She survives the border crossing only to be confronted by a lawless volunteer border guard who murders two other immigrants in her group. When he comes after her, his patrol partner Aidan (Paul Mescal) becomes involved in a deadly standoff. Aidan is forced to escape with Carmen as they make their way north to Los Angeles. They make their way to the refuge of Masilda (Rossy De Palma), Carmen’s mother’s friend and owner of the nightclub La Sombra. They find solace in the music and dance and their love for each other, but time is running out as the police are on their trail.

To be honest, I was expecting this to be a re-envisioned telling of the opera Carmen. While the story doesn’t follow all the usual beats of that drama, there is enough, especially the romance between Carmen and Aidan, to quickly realize that this is a modern version of that story. What I did like about this spin is the actual changes. I like that Carmen is an immigrant, and I love the bond between her and Masilda, who was like a sister to Carmen’s mother. The development of their relationship is one of the best elements in the film. Carmen is also portrayed as smart and talented. Part of the mystique and charm is in the fact that the writers don’t give you a ton of details on her background. But that is also what works against the film working as well as it could.

Aidan is also an intriguing character. They develop him and give just enough backstory so that you realize he is a veteran, a soldier. The basic outlines, dancer, and soldier, do follow the original story. His decision to follow Carmen is as practical as it is romantic. The story does not just have them fall in love. The relationship develops after time on the road and helping each other. But their interactions don’t give enough time to show the full development of either character and even though the film is called Carmen, we spend much more time with Aidan than we do with Carmen.

To me, it is the reworking of the story that actually causes it to be confusing. If we’d been given the original story, one that at least some people are familiar with, then the lack of development would not have been so glaringly obvious. However, since the story was re-envisioned, I was expecting more character development and a lot clearer narrative. As the film begins, we don’t know why Carmen’s mother is killed, nor do we know why the men were looking for Carmen. With Aidan, we are given a bit more information, but the film never really explains much. There also is not enough dialogue to fully develop the relationships in the film. We are not given enough to really see the full potential of either Carmen or Aidan as characters.

I found myself wanting to know more about the characters and disengaged through a majority of the film. What did intrigue me was the musical acts and the dancing. The performances are beautiful and do fill in some of the gaps in the story but not enough. I’ve enjoyed plenty of musicals where you can follow the narrative, but this one does not quite manage that feat. Half the dances feel dropped in randomly. The rest do work with the film and the story. But the results are mixed, to say the least. The actors do their best, and the performances are dynamic. Paul Mescal is emotional, while Melissa Barrera, as Carmen, is passionate and charismatic. Rossy De Palma adds a touch of mystery, her character a comfort for Carmen. But the acting does not make up for the lack of character development.

This has some beautiful performances if you like music and dancing. The film only uses certain selected tracks as background from the original opera, but the music they have is haunting and beautiful. If you like musical films, this might be worth the time. The acting is dynamic, and the chemistry between Paul Mescal and Melissa Barrera is believable as a romance. But the characters lack development, and it leaves the story feeling confused and made me feel disconnected from the film. A little more dialogue or backstory would have aided the characters and the film.

Rating: 3 out of 5 dances.

Official Website: Carmen | Sony Pictures Classics
Facebook: @carmenmovie2023
Hashtag: #CarmenMovie



Genre: Drama/Musical

CARMEN follows a young and fiercely independent woman who is forced to flee her home in the Mexican desert following the brutal murder of her mother. Carmen (MELISSA BARRERA) survives a terrifying and dangerous illegal border crossing into the US, only to be confronted by a lawless volunteer border guard, who cold-bloodedly murders two other immigrants in her group. When the border guard and his patrol partner, Aidan (PAUL MESCAL)—a Marine with PTSD—become embroiled in a deadly standoff, Carmen and Aidan are forced to escape together. They make their way north towards Los Angeles in search of Carmen’s mother’s best friend, the mercurial Masilda (ROSSY DE PALMA) and owner of La Sombra nightclub – a sanctuary of music and dance. Carmen and Aidan find both solace and their unwavering love for one another in the safety of Masilda’s magical refuge, but time is running out as the police hunt closes in.
CARMEN is playing in select cities and opens in Phoenix on May 12, 2023.

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