Alex Reviews "Cassandro"
There may be no place on earth as dedicated to looking and acting tough as the ring of a lucha libre show. So dedicated in fact that the mere hint of homosexual behavior is met with thunderous jeers and immediately being the villain. To its credit or detriment, Mexican wrestling embraced that with the inclusion of “exóticos” who flaunt commonly believed homosexual flamboyance in the show. While inclusion does not mean equality, as these performers are there to get beat up and defeated for the amusement of the crowd. That is until Saúl Armendáriz debuts his truest self for the world to see in Cassandro.
Gael García Bernal (Werewolf by Night) absolutely crushes the titular role showing depth to both Saul and Cassandro as two sides of the same coin: demure, dedicated momma’s boy as Saúl and wild, extravagant Cassandro by night. It was incredibly impressive to watch a complete performance in both body and delivery beyond vocal changes that would have been impossible for a lesser talent as the film slipped between English and Spanish while being a gritty, realistic biopic.
Enhancing the film is Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams (The Apollo) using his documentary experience to bring an incredible amount of realism to the story. The intimacy and care taken with the shots of the film draws the audience so far into the movie that it would be easy to forget that it is a dramatic picture rather than the actual occurrences that inspired the story.
My only negative about Cassandro stems from my enjoyment and surprise at the narrative. For as much as conflict is set up in multiple scenes, there is a shocking lack of struggle. My hope is that there is a significantly longer director cut with more overcoming/triumph than the Creed-inspired score would seem to indicate.
Cassandro is an incredibly well shot and acted feature that may struggle to find the wider audience it truly deserves. As it is a biopic for the “Liberace of Lucha Libre” it is sure to rub some movie goers the wrong way, but it was awesome to see the full circle of a legend in professional wrestling who would go on to become a champion both in the ring and for LGBTQ+ individuals around the world.