Maybe you didn't pay attention in Spanish class, or, perhaps subtitles aren’t your thing. But, for those of you who haven’t seen Pedro Almodóvar’s 2009 Hitchcock-ian romance Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos, en Español), let us break it down for you. The film is essentially a love letter to Penélope Cruz—her face, her eyes, her lips, her legs, her hair—wrapped into a movie about making a movie starring Lena (Cruz). A former secretary and current mistress of wealthy businessman Ernesto Martel, Lena lands her first film in the hopes of not only fulfilling a lifetime dream of becoming an actress, but also as an opportunity to free herself of her jealous but pampering lover’s gilded cage. For everyone on screen and off, it’s infatuation at first frame—Almodóvar's camera, his on-screen director character, Mateo Blanco, and Ernesto’s son, Ernesto Jr.—everyone worships her every passing pose. “Just like Audrey,” Blanco directs, when he has Lena try on wigs and reenact the spectrum of emotions over and over.
Lena, though only on screen for the middle third of the movie, has a haunting presence throughout, and represents for Almodóvar and his audience every iconic leading lady. She's Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, dripping in oversized jewels and eyeshadow, tragic muses Monica Vitti and Marilyn Monroe with mussed, white blond curls and a pale pout, and the aforementioned Ms. Hepburn, with bright eyes and micro bangs. Lena is a prisoner of her own ambition and beauty and doomed from the get-go. But Almodóvar won’t have you feeling sorry for her, when, for example, she gazes at herself in a bathroom mirror preening her enviable bedhead and slept-in makeup, and sighs, “I look awful.” The director knows, of course, that we all aspire to look as good as she does at this so-called “worst.”
So, now that we've filled you in (a little), how to replicate the look that would put any woman at the center of a powerful love triangle?
First, let’s start with the base. To replicate Lena's perpetual glow, begin with a good moisturizer, followed by a subtly illuminating primer—we're partial to Sunday Riley—and a then a semi-sheer foundation like Giorgio Armani Maestro in one shade lighter than your natural skin tone. For the I've-just-been-making-out flush, use a mauve cream blush on the apples of your cheeks a la ella and perfect your lips with a matching beige-pink lipstick.
Lena's eyes, and everything they say without saying, are emphasized with a thin dusting of MAC eyeshadow in Vapour, a few false lashes, a heavy sweep of black eyeliner, and 1950s filled-in brows. Following the eyeshadow, apply two or three individual lashes to the outer corners of your eye with some glue and tweezers. Draw a thin line with the eyeliner in the top and bottom waterline, a thick line along the top lashes with a slight cat-eye wing (or even a Kate Young one), and a very thin line close to the bottom lashes. Then curl your lashes and top them off with a few coats of black mascara. Finally, fill in your brows with a brow pencil (for a detailed how-to, check out Charlotte Tilbury's fool-proof video). You'll look more determined.
For hair, we'll focus on Lena's natural glossy, voluminous curls, because those of you looking to mimic one of her many wigged-out moments can hit the nearest wig or party shop and just go nuts. But for the natural look: give yourself a stellar blow-dry with a round brush. Prep hair with a bit of thickening spray, and, using a one-inch curling iron, curl your hair in one-inch sections away from your face. Secure with hairspray, then run your fingers through the curls to gently tousle them.
To complete the homage, position yourself in front of crisp, graphic backdrops, and bat those lashes. (And let us know what happens!)