“A slice of Welsh rarebit”
As we mentioned in the 2018 preview, this has had a rather tortuous journey to the screen, with Zeta-Jones inked to the part of Griselda Blanco as long ago as October 2014. That theatrical film appears to have died on the vine, but the actress’s interest clearly did not. Last May, Lifetime gave the go-ahead to a TV movie version instead, telling the life story of a character who has already crossed this site before. Needless to say, there were howls of indignation from the usual quarters that the Welsh Zeta-Jones had been cast to play Blanco, though as she herself pointed out, she’d played Hispanic women before, such as in Zorro. It’s something which never bothers me: whether the performance works is always more important to me than the location of the performer’s birth.
In this case (and going by the Twitter reactions, many tend to agree), I’d say that Zeta-Jones certainly wasn’t the problem with the finished product. If considerably more attractive than the real Griselda, she is mostly very convincing, giving her portrayal the combination of driven intensity and potential for furious rage that Blanco possessed. The problem is more a script which simply fails to flow. Sure, the story touches most of the obvious moments in Griselda’s life, yet these appear completely unconnected to each other. The end result feels almost as if someone took a 70-episode telenovela and edited it down into a 90-minute TV movie. It’s more like Griselda Blanco’s Greatest Hits – and she was allegedly responsible for over 200 of those, hohoho.
It is a disturbing start, with the very young Blanco being pimped out by her mother in Medellin, only to pull a gun and shoot one of her customers dead after he refuses to pay. Damn. Thereafter, however, it bounces around rapidly, with little or no real time-frame. You get her killing husbands, inventing the motorcycle drive-by, the Dadeland Mall shootout, using attractive women to smuggle drugs in their lingerie and high-heels, etc. But all these fragments combine to provide little or no insight into her character, motives or personality (though I was somewhat impressed this did not soft-pedal Blanco’s bisexuality, unlike La Viuda Negra); I wanted to know what made her tick, and was sorely disappointed. You’d likely come away better informed simply by reading the Wikipedia article on her.
Perhaps it’s the kind of life which simply cannot be told adequately in such a brief time-span. I saw a number of comparisons to the Netflix series, Narcos, and do have to wonder if a 13-episode series might have been better suited to the material, rather than this breathless, and ultimately empty, gallop through Blanco’s life. There is still reported to be another take on the topic coming down the pipeline with Jennifer Lopez playing Blanco in an HBO movie. Like Zeta-Jones, Lopez had been linked to the role for a long time (since at least the death of the real Griselda in 2012), but little has been heard about that version since 2016. For now, this version will have to do.
Dir: Guillermo Navarro
Star: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Raúl Méndez, Juan Pablo Espinosa, Matteo Stefan