Carmen is one of my favorite Operas. I’m even a huge fan of the 2001 MTV Movie, Carmen: A Hip Hop-era starring Beyonce. So, when I learned that we were getting a modern-day interpretation starring two of my favorites, Melissa Berrera (In the Heights/Scream VI) and Paul Mescal (Normal People), I was stoked! Not to mention, it’s directed by Black Swan choreographer, Mr. Natalie Portman himself, Benjamin Millepied. My expectations were set high.
In this adaptation of Carmen, the story is a take on forgotten soldiers and immigration. Mescal plays Aiden, a restless veteran who has returned home after multiple tours in Iraq. Not unlike a lot of our soldiers, Aiden is lost and having a difficult time reacclimating back into society. He can’t hold down a job, is dealing with untreated PTSD, and is on the brink of losing their family home. So, he decides to use his military training and join the volunteer border patrol.
We first meet Berrera’s Carmen as she’s working with a Coyote to help her cross the border and run away from men who are trying to harm her. When Aiden and his “friend” come across the truck of immigrants his “friend” gets trigger-happy shooting at the adults and children and running away to safety. It even seems, at one point, that Aiden saves Carmen from being assaulted by shooting his “friend” and running away.
Throughout the film we see Carmen and Aidan depend on each other, earn each other’s trust, and fall in love. However, what we don’t see is an opera, play, ballet, or musical.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS MOVIE?
When Carmen begins the tone is set with an incredibly powerful acapella flamenco number performed by Carmen’s mother. It beautifully tells the story and sets the stakes for what is about to unfold. However, that high bar quickly lowers throughout the rest of the film.
The Cinematography in Carmen is stunning and the score is incredible. It’s basically another character. However, the film has very little dialogue, almost no songs, and is full of random abrupt ballet numbers. There are maybe 3 songs throughout the entire film and they’re all towards the end. How do you have Melissa Berrara in your film and you only allow her to sing once? If it wasn’t for the impeccable chemistry and acting chops of our leads this film would be a complete flop.
Towards the end of the movie, there is a fight sequence with a fantastic song and choreographed number that made me wonder why the rest of the film wasn’t like this! Carmen isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is it a ballet, musical, or Opera? I could be all in if it would decide, but this indecision makes it messy and underwhelming.
Carmen hits theaters on April 21, 2023