Tag Archives: D+

BOSSA NOVA

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D+

Director Bruno Barreto and his wife Amy Irving attempt in their
latest collaboration to create a Brazilian version of the sort
of romantic roundelay that Max Ophuls managed so memorably in
1950’s “La Ronde.” The fulcrum of the complicated plot is a
middleaged Rio lawyer named Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes), who
falls for English teacher Mary Ann (Irving), who will also be
romanced by a randy soccer star (Alexandre Borges), who in time
becomes Pedro’s client while Pedro is himself pursued by his
ex-wife (Debora Bloch). Meanwhile, Pedro’s half-brother Roberto,
(Pedro Cardoso), a tailor working for their father Juan
(Alberto de Mendoza), is smitten by the attorney’s sultry
intern Sharon (Giovanna Antonelli), who also catches the soccer
player’s roving eye, while the teacher’s friend Nadine (Drica
Moraes) is engaging in an internet romance with another lawyer
(Stephen Tobolowsky), who just happens to be a colleague of
Pedro’s and who, when he arrives in Rio, mistakes the teacher
for his unseen e-mail correspondent. And did I mention that
Mary Ann is still grieving over the loss of her beloved husband
in a drowning accident, or that Pedro is representing his aged
father in a divorce action, or that Pedro’s ex-wife, a travel
agent, abets her client Nadine in her efforts to make contact
with her internet beau?

As you can see, the plot of “Bossa Nova” is very complex, but
unfortunately it’s not terribly confusing. I say “unfortunately”
because a tale like this one needs to be effervescent as well
as elaborate, and that means it has to be light and airy,
moving swiftly enough so that the viewer is caught up in the
characters’ dizziness, too. Barreto’s directorial hand is
leaden, however, making the onscreen shenanigans seem more
forced and turgid than intoxicating. Nor does the cast play
the material with the delicacy needed to keep it afloat.

The result, despite the musical beat the setting lends to the
story, is about as appetizing as a soggy souffle. “Bossa
nova” has moments of sporadic charm, but it needs to fly, and
Barreto heavy-handedness keeps it resolutely pedestrian. It’s
nicely photographed, though.

ME MYSELF I

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D+

The “What If?” genre of movie dramedy has been a cinematic
staple for a long while–“It’s a Wonderful Life” is an obvious
example, and “Peggy Sue Got Married” gave the idea a twist in
1985. Of late, however, we’ve been been getting entirely
too many mediocre specimens of the type–“Sliding Doors,” for
instance, and the even worse “Twice Upon a Yesterday.” This
debut feature written and directed by Australian Pip Karmel,
the editor of “Shine,” represents a further decline, not
least because it stars Rachel Griffiths, a fine performer
(“Muriel’s Wedding,” “Jude,” “My Son the Fanatic,” “Hilary and
Jackie”) who’s here reduced to playing the sort of essentially
empty role that might be assigned to Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan
in a Hollywood version of the story. It’s a waste of her
talent.

Griffiths plays Pam Drury, a successful writer who’s despondent
at not having a “significant other” when she turns thirty.
After contemplating suicide, she stumbles into a “miraculous”
circumstance whereby she changes places with her alternate
self, who’s married to the guy Pam has always considered “the
one who got away” and is the mother of his three children.
During her sojourn in another life Pam learns the esoteric
principle about the grass always being greener on the other
side of the fence; and though she returns to her former
existence with some residual nostalgia for “what might have
been,” she’s now a better, more confident person with a real
future (including, as it turns out, a potential beau).

It should be clear from the preceding that “Me Myself I” is a
pat, predictable piece, a trite and formulaic fantasy that
never escapes the obvious. Griffiths struggles to put some
depth into the central character, but her attempts are
sabotaged by Karmel’s approach to the material, which fails
to rise above the sitcom level; and none of the other cast
members generate much spice. The result is a little
Australian flick trying to be a mainstream American crowd-
pleaser and failing miserably. There may be a few stateside
viewers willing to be taken in by such mushy malarkey, but they
certainly won’t be very numetous. (They’ll probably find
especially offensive the film’s implicit premise that a woman
can’t possibly find fulfillment on her own; her sense of self-
worth, the script seems lamely to suggest, must necessarily be
dependent on her locating a suitable man.)

Indeed, the only saving grace about the picture is that it
mercifully shows us only half of the “Pam switch.” It would
have been truly torturous to watch the married version enter
into the life of our single heroine, too. The portion of the
tale that we have to endure is quite bad enough, thank you.