I picked this up at a car boot sale some years ago, with a guilty feeling I should check out more of Almodovar's work. After viewing it, I still want to check out more of his work. I have seen "Tie Me Up! Time Me Down!" quite a few years ago, but can't really remember it. This doesn't seem one of his best reviewed works, and yet I found plenty to enjoy, so I hope for more treats to come. He has an arresting visual style, the story was fun, if massively contrived and requiring a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, and the performances were largely superb.
Possibly the weakest of the quintet is the lead, Victor (played by Liberto Rabal). He's good looking, and plays it well enough - certainly not bad to watch - but I couldn't help feeling he wasn't getting everything out of the character. It certainly wasn't as nuanced as the characters David, played by Javier Bardem (with the intensity of a young Oliver Reed), Elena, played by the gorgeous Francesca Neri, and especially the aging Clara, played wonderfully by Angela Molina. Even Sancho (played by Jose, err, Sancho), the smallest role of the five, offered more in the acting chops than Rabal, who the film revolved around, and had the vast majority of the screen time. True, innocence is not as fun to play as aging cynicism or brooding failure, but I couldn't help feeling some extra charisma might have been beneficial. But that is nitpicking - overall, the acting is plenty good enough to help the viewer glide over the waves of disbelief.
After seeing Victor born on a bus in the middle of the night, the son of a prostitute, we rejoin him twenty years later, as a pizza delivery boy in love with a heroin addict he had a tryst with the week before. She was so high she can hardly remember it, and demands he leave her alone. After an altercation, some cops arrive on the scene. One, Sancho, is drinking far too much to cope with the suspected infidelity of his wife, Clara. Worse, it is his police partner, Bardem's David, he suspects of being the other party. In the ensuing standoff, a gun is fired, David is paralysed, and Victor is imprisoned for the crime. In prison, he watches on television as David, now star of Spain's Paralympics basketball team, celebrates another win with Elena, now his wife. When he is released, five years later, he swears revenge on them both. The paths of all five characters cross and recross, with much drama, a little comedy, and repercussions for all.
With some beautiful locations, evocative dialogue, and terrific performances, there is much to enjoy here, although the plot requires you to want to go along with it. I did, however, find it pretty depressing in its conclusions. Almodovar seems to believe sex more powerful than love, and that betrayal and selfishness are the currency of the world. He may well be right, but it can leave you feeling fairly bleak at the prospect. Although, ultimately, that could be argued to be countered by the film's curiously upbeat and neat resolution, certainly not the norm in this sort of film, I'm still not sure it qualifies as a happy ending.
This is no classic, but it's certainly an interesting curio, and a worthy watch if you want a twisting plot filmed nicely, held up with some acting of a very high quality. I know I'm very late to the Almodovar party, but I won't be leaving early.