Picks and Pans Review: Volver

updated 11/13/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura

Penélope Cruz, working in her mother tongue, gives a magnificent performance in a frothy yet bittersweet tale about mothers and daughters. Given that she looked lovely but seemed ill at ease in the English-language clunkers Vanilla Sky and Sahara, it's refreshing to see Cruz deliver the goods. Reunited with her mentor, flamboyant director-writer Pedro Almodóvar (they last teamed on All About My Mother in '99), she gets to emote big-time in this Spanish-language comic drama (with English subtitles).

Cruz plays Raimunda, a housewife in Madrid who, over the course of this enjoyably wacky and convoluted tale, contends with a murdered husband and ghostly visits from her long-dead mom (Maura). Whatever the film throws Raimunda's way, Cruz handles it with aplomb, her good humor intact, her plump rear (it's padding) swinging from side-to-side as she sallies forth to face the next challenge. (R)

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