Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Did You Score? (orig. E Ai... Comeu?) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13/R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Adorocinema.com (AdC)* listing

Did You Score? (orig. E Ai... Comeu?) [2012] [AdC]*(directed by Felipe Joffily [AdC]* screenplay by Marcelo Rubens Paiva [wiki-pt]* and Lusa Silvestre based on the stage play by Marcelo Rubens Paiva [wiki-pt]*) is a well-written/well-crafted, often very funny, popular Brazilian comedy and one that (North) American viewers (still my primary readership) would immediately understand as it is centered around three 30-something friends Fernando (played by Bruno Mazzeo [AdC]*), Honório (played by Marcos Palmiera [AdC]*) and Afozinho (played by Emílio Orciollo Neto [AdC]*) who get together in the evenings at a small open air neighborhood bar (somewhere in Rio de Janeiro) called "Bar Harmonia" (Harmony's) whose name even basically means Cheers [IMDb].  While clearly different from the North American sitcom (and the current film is based on a Brazilian stage play), it should also be clear that if one sets a story around three young men regularly getting together at a bar anywhere in the world the potential for comedy is almost endless.  And indeed the film-makers (story-tellers) here do not disappoint ;-).

So it doesn't surprise me that the film, which played recently at the 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival, recevied much popular acclaim [AdC]* back in Brazil, if interestingly not necessarily particularly high critical acclaim [AdC]*. The film is therefore also a reminder to me that popular comedies are often the most difficult to review, and then especially for someone like me, a Catholic priest after all ;-).

Comedy is in good part about "letting go" about saying things "with a smile" that one may not be able to say without that smile.  In reviewing other "problematic" comedies (No Strings Attached [2011], Friends with Benefits [2011], et al) I've noted that there's often a (to quote the Beach Boys song) "Wouldn't it be Nice?" quality to romantic comedies.  Indeed, this day-dreamy "wouldn't it be nice" quality to romantic comedies has been around since at least Shakespeare's comedies Midsummer Night's Dream, All's Well that Ends Well and Much Ado about Nothing.  So often, romantic comedies go off in a direction that a Church official like myself would not particularly like, but SOMEWHERE in the film, reality would set in, and the plot would return closer back to earth.  The "dream" would come to a close, and "all would be well" at the end.

A second device that's often used in comedies has been to make the central characters obviously "stupider" (amiable but ... not particularly bright...) than the audience.  The North American Hangover [2009+] films obviously use this second device.   After all, who'd be so stupid as to get so drunk as to pull out one's own tooth (with a set of pliers) somewhere "out on the town" and then not even remember doing so the next day?  No one.  And that's the point.  We're given permission to relax/laugh because those telling us the story are telling us:  WE'RE JUST TELLING YOU A STORY. IT'S NOT REAL.  To be honest, I saw the first Hangover [2009] movie a couple of years before I began my blog and have basically refused to see the others because IMHO they are just too stupid.  Yet, I have to also admit that the Hangover films have been incredibly popular among parishioners at my parish.  And I have to say then that these films clearly speak to them (and tens of millions of others across the U.S.) no matter what the Church (or other, more high-brow critics) may say.

These two devices are used in all kinds of North American comedies, and are clearly coming to be used across the globe -- one thinks of the wildly popular (in Poland) romcom Letters to Santa (orig. Listy do M.) [2011],  the Czech offbeat but funny "romcom of sorts" (based on an English script) Perfect Days (orig. I ženy mají své dny) [2011], the again wildly popular (in Spain) comedy Cousinhood (orig. Primos) [2011] and now Did You Score? (orig. E Ai... Comeu?) [2012] [AdC]* from Brazil as well.  All these films have proven competitive to North American comedies in their own markets, all clearly borrow from North American scriptwriting techniques and yet all in their final product feel quite native to the applause of local audiences (and to the financial success of local film-makers). 

Okay, the techniques work, but are they good (morally acceptable)?  I haven't beaten-up the films that I've listed above, so I'm not going to beat-up this film either.  I would also note that the alternative would be to create a level of censorship that still produces reasonably good films (one thinks of the excellent, but self-evidently "limited in scope" recent Iranian film Meeting Leila (orig. Ashnaee ba Leila) [2011] about a nice/responsible soon-to-be wife who just wants her lively/smiling soon-to-be husband to "just quit smoking ...").  However after a while such limited subject matter inevitably becomes boring as it is further and further separated from actual lived experience.

So then, what is this current film about?   Well it's about these three friends Fernando (played by Bruno Mazzeo [AdC]*), Honório (played by Marcos Palmiera [AdC]*) and Afozinho (played by Emílio Orciollo Neto [AdC]*).  They are all middle class, indeed arguably at the lower end of upper middle class.

Fernando is a journalist of some sort.  He's married to Leila (played by Dira Paes [AdC]*) who also works outside the home and actually seems to have more regular hours than Fernando.  Together, they have three young daughters.  Perhaps because he's surrounded by all those women during other times of the day, Fernando likes to get out of the house in the evening to go to the bar to meet with his friends.

Honório is an architect who's wife Vitória (played by Tainá Müller [AdC]) just left him for reasons unclear, but perhaps because she found him a bit of a schmuck (boring).  Yes, he carries around boxes (models) and charts all the time, but he works in a small office in a high rise for some larger architectural firm and it's clear that he's probably not going to outshine many others where he's working.

Afozinho is single, a writer, who makes his living writing crossword puzzles, but like any writer, dreams of publishing "his novel."  Indeed, he has about 20 different versions of it in his apartment.  His big problem appears to be that he's been largely writing about life rather than living it.  His book is supposed to be a romance/love story, but ... he himself, sitting a lot in front of the computer, is addicted to cam-sites and (presumably) internet porn.  A potential publisher tells him as much: "Your book is supposed to be a romance, but the romance seems to be far more researched rather than lived."

So when the three get together, all three have steam/frustration to blow.  Fernando, who seems a little bit older and certainly more mature than the other two, would perhaps like to live vicariously through Honório and Afozinho.  But one's getting divorced and the other spends his time looking at internet hookers or perhaps hooking-up with a real one (this is Rio after all...) but doesn't have a clue about how to get a real date (even if the bar's got plenty of women in it, also meeting-up with other women to talk / let off steam.

Fortunately, there's the waiter/bar-tender (played by Seu Jorge [AdC]*) who Fernando hits up each evening to give them some sage advice. Most of the women in the bar, and there are several groups of regulars, who meet up at the place to chat with friends, think that the three, especially the two younger ones, are a bunch of cretinhos (cretins...).

As the story goes on, Honório (the one dumped by his wife) finds that he's caught (actually much to his dismay) the eye of Gabi (played by Laura Nieva [AdC]*) an attractive (but still morally if perhaps not absolutely legally underaged) 17 1/2 year old from his apartment complex.  At one point, he tries to tell her once and for all that she's just too young.  But she argues with him saying that by "state statute number..., article..., section ... ... it'd be okay," adding, "I researched it.  My dad's a judge." (Yes, that's even more wonderful...).

Afozinho in the meantime, trying to take the advice of his publisher (but clearly in the wrong way ...) to "actually live life" tries to meet-up with one of the cam models (from Rio de Janeiro) that he's been talking to (paying for ...) over the internet.  (Yup, that's got a big chance of working ...)

And Fernando, after spending so much time with his two (let's face it, kinda problematic and often inert) buddies starts wondering if his wife's now cheating on him ... ;-)

So there it is.  The film begins with "all" being (more or less) "well."  Then "all's" definitely "not well."  Obviously, by the end, "all's well" again. 

It's not a super comedy.  But honestly, it's not a bad one, reminding a (North) American viewer a lot of Cheers (remember that in that series the Ted Danson character Sam was something of a lech and a lot of the women thought he was an idiot too).  And then, despite often coarse language and various sexual situations, there is actually no nudity in it.  Much more is said, again often with a smile, than shown.  All in all, like comedies are supposed to do ... it gives a good laugh.  And a foreigner would perhaps get a sense of what a bunch of "regular guys" in a "regular bar" in Brazil would sound like.  And I do think that this is kinda cool ;-).  Good job!

* Immediate machine translation of foreign (in this case Portuguese) language links are generally best viewed using Google's Chrome browser.

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