A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Loving Pablo is an intense, mature drama based on journalist Virginia Vallejo's (Penélope Cruz) memoir about her years in a relationship with married drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem), who co-founded the infamous Medellín Cartel. It's full of extremely brutal violence, including shootings, assassinations, graphic torture/murders, the savage beating of a dog, and an explicit description of a horrifying gang rape. Language is also very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "son of a bitch," and more. There's rear male and female nudity, as well as partial nudity involving an apparently underage girl who's in a relationship with Escobar. Not surprisingly, drugs are shown and discussed frequently. Peter Sarsgaard co-stars.
What's the story?
LOVING PABLO is drawn from the memoir Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar by journalist Virginia Vallejo (Penélope Cruz), who had a years-long affair with notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem). During their relationship, Escobar founds the Medellín Cartel, orchestrates assassinations, pursues political ambitions, spends some time in prison, and engages in all-out war with the Colombian government. In the meantime, an American DEA agent (Peter Sarsgaard) teams with Colombian authorities to hunt down the murderous fugitive.
Is it any good?
This memoir-based drama features strong lead performances but feels naggingly incomplete and uninvolving. The dialogue feels flat, and the narration is written insipidly; it leans heavily on exposition rather than human moments. Loving Pablo is marked by the usual "greatest hits" pitfalls of biopics. Key moments are re-enacted without a sense of insight into the people involved. There isn't enough human connective tissue between the re-creation of the headlines. Yes, scenes are occasionally memorable -- such as when Escobar gives his young son the "Don’t get high on your own supply" speech, using Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. But those moments are few and far between.
While the lead performances are predictably strong, the portrait of Vallejo (who has a long history in Colombia and was granted political asylum in America following her claims against top political figures in her home country) makes her seem shallow and wide-eyed. Perhaps that's the real her; who knows? Cruz's believable portrayal includes her being shocked to her senses about the people with whom she's become involved. The dependably excellent Bardem transforms as the oft-portrayed Escobar; viewers see him develop over time from an outsider with mainstream ambitions to a cold-blooded, murderous kingpin who's clinging to his family as his last bit of humanity. Unfortunately, real-life married couple and frequent co-stars Cruz and Bardem generate zero chemistry as on-screen lovers here. It's frankly unclear why the characters matter to each other. And, ultimately, the film lacks the charm or thrills of, say, Scarface or the suspense or human elements of, say, A Prophet. Mostly, though, what's missing from Loving Pablo is ... love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Do you think there are any messages in the movie, such as anti-drug or anti-crime messages? Why or why not?
How accurate do you think the film is to what happened in real life? Why might filmmakers change facts when making a movie based on real events? Are memoirs reliable sources of fact?
- In theaters: October 5, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: November 6, 2018
- Cast: Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Peter Sarsgaard
- Director: Fernando León de Aranoa
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violent content, some sexuality, language and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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