"I saw Almodóvar's "Volver" back in May and in spite of bits and pieces that annoyed me throughout the film, I quite enjoyed it as a whole.
What I did not like is the excess of melodrama - and I do not mean just drama, because that is human and exciting - present also in his previous films since "High Heels". People cry too much all the time, to the point of embarrasing ridicule, as was the case in "Talk to her", where a character was a compulsive cry-baby, presented at the time as Almodóvar's "revelation" that men could actually cry. As if nobody knew that before the film.
But in "Volver", the annoying aspect of melodrama is not only associated with tears, but also with a contrived, self-indulgent desire to pay hommage to Visconti's "Belìssima", made obvious in many ways, from the main character's look (Penélope Cruz here doing her Anna Magnani bit, unconvincingly, it must be said) and characterisation, to an explicit extract of that film shown in "Volver". If the desire to do "Belìssima" is so obvious, why not then just do a full remake of it? It would be better than a half cooked, shy hommage, because it would be a film with its own identity, although a remake, whereas in the case of "Volver", the takes on "Belìssima" are contrived, self-indulgent and awkward. And Penèlope Cruz is definitely not an actress for neo-realism and in this case, she was clearly out of her league, having to be dubbed in a singing scene that didn't even have to be in the film (another self-indulgent decision, or "instinct", as Pedro Almodóvar calls it, in his Time Out interview), making it more awkward and embarrassing to watch. The same happened in "Talk to her", in a scene where Caetano Veloso simply appears singing in a party, where friends of Almodóvar are gathered in cameos. This sort of self-indulgence gets in the way of what could have been a tighter, more concentrated film and spoils much of its impact, as it did here in "Volver' .
Apart from that, I also think that the film shows a light-hearted attitude towards death and liked the way women bonded and helped each other, particularly in a scene involving the preparation of a meal.
It was also great to see Carmen Maura reunited with Almodóvar after almost 20 years, a fact very fittingly used in the this film, giving it more resonance and depth to the character.
In spite of missing the subversive comedies he made in the 80's, I still like the dramas he's made such as "Tie me up, tie me down", "Live Flesh" and "All about my mother". Those remain among my favourite Almodóvar films and it proves you can create affecting, great films without too much melodrama, so my message to him is: hold the "water works" and sharpen up your instincts towards the personal self-indulgences."