There’s a moment in Roger Ross Williams’ biopic of Saúl Armendáriz — a.k.a. Cassandro, the “Liberace of lucha libre” — when Gael García Bernal’s future wrestling superstar is about to debut his new persona in the ring. It’s a twist on the sport’s stock “exotico” characters, those homophobic caricatures of swishy gay men designed to make the masked heroes that much more masculine. Saúl’s new creation is different, however: He’s going to make the exotico a winner. He enters the arena, climbs up the ropes, and you see him transform into Cassandro: out, proud, and ready to rumble. But you also see Saúl behind those eyes, feeding off the energy and slightly in awe of the self-empowerment he’s just unleashed. That’s Bernal’s performance in a nutshell: a high-wire balancing act of flamboyance, smarts, ambition, hope, hurt, vulnerability, confidence, and the chops to back it all up. Sometimes in the same scene; occasionally in the same glance. Bernal has always had a knack for adding unexpected grace notes and casual charisma to his characters, yet what he does for this IRL LGBTQ+ hero is amazing even by his standards.

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