Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Casa Grande 
A Folha de São Paulo (A. Agabiti Fernandez) review*
Gazeta do Povo (R. Rodrigues Costa) review*
O Globo (S. Rizzo) review*
AdoroCinema.com (R. Hermsdorff) review*
aVoir-aLire.fr (J. Zimmer) review*
eKran.si (S. Popek) review*
Slant Magazine (D. Semereme) review
The Hollywood Reporter (N. Young) review
Variety (J. Weissberg) review
Casa Grande  [IMDb] [AC.br]*(directed and cowritten by Fellipe Barbosa [IMDb] [AC.br]* along with Karen Sztajnberg [IMDb]) is a Brazilian "coming of age" story that played here this Spring at the 2015 Chicago Latino Film Festival. I was unable to see it then but was happy to see it return for a week-long run (Dec 19-23, 2015) recently at Chicago's Facets Multimedia.
Indeed, the film is one of several teenage "coming of age" films to have come-out of Brazil in the past year and made it to the United States (for me, Chicago). These included After the Rain (orig. Depois da Chuva)  that also played at the 2015 Chicago Latino Film Festival in the spring, and Hopefuls (orig. Aspirantes)  that played at the 2015 Chicago Int'l Film Festival in the fall.
Yet if After the Rain (orig. Depois da Chuva)  had definite John Hughes-like tones -- that film was about a student election held at a thoroughly random (if still private) high school in the (still somewhat random) northestern Brazilian city of Salvador (if also set in the late 1980s in the context a Brazil which was then just coming-out of two decades of military dictatorship...) -- the current film, Casa Grande  [IMDb] [AC.br]*, could perhaps be best approached by (North) American viewers as a play-on / "riffing-off of" the (North) American (and Tom Cruise starring) "coming of age" classic Risky Business : For both films - Casa and Risky - were about somewhat oafish, still a little-bit "chubby," definitely still quite insecure 17-year olds from privileged backgrounds trying to navigate their last year before maturity and proceeding to (the parents hope "a good") College. Tom Cruise's Joel in Risky Business  was growing-up in the upscale suburban "North Shore" region of Chicago and going to New Trier High School (yes, a "public school" but, as it is supported by local (wealthy) tax payer money, it is _always_ among the best college prep schools in the entire country), while in the current film Jean (played by Thales Cavalcanti [IMDb] [AC.br]*) was growing-up in a definitely upscale (gated) suburb of Rio de Janeiro and attending an attending an upscale Catholic prep school, São Bento's (St. Benedict's), in the city.
Yet, despite growing-up with privilege, 17 is an awkward age: Neither Tom Cruise's Joel in Risky, Cavalcanti's Jean in Casa were necessarily "top students," and academics aside, both were trying to figure-out how to "make it" with the opposite sex: Privilege _isn't_ an automatic "in" as Joel's family's housekeeper Rita (played IMHO magnificently throughout by Clarissa Pinheiro [IMDb] [AC.br]*) keeps reminding him: "You have to become a man," she tells him.
But what _is_ "becoming a man"? That's in good part, what the rest of the film is about, and it becomes increasingly clear that it does _not_ involve necessarily "owning a BIG HOUSE" (a Casa Grande, which, of course, is the name of the film). Indeed, it becomes evident that owning / maintaining said "Big House" has become a rather precarious business for Jean's once super-wealthy parents (played by Marcello Novaes [IMDb] [AC.br]* and Suzana Pires [IMDb] [AC.br]* respectively) who because of "fluctuations in the markets" have become increasingly less so. So how / where does one "find ground" / "find one's footing"? Jean does find an answer (and arguably a better, more sustainable one than Tom Cruise's Joel) and one which has parallels with another, now Argentinian film, La Paz , which touches again on many of the same "coming of age" / "making sense of it all" themes.
A quite excellent / thought-provoking and even challenging film.
* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.
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