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Bossa Nova
2000 - R - NA Mins.
Director: Bruno Barreto
Producer: Lucy Barreto, Luis Carlos Barreto
Written By: Alexandre Machado, Fernanda Young, Alexandre Machado & Fernanda Young, Bruno Barreto
Starring: Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes, Alexandre Borges, Debora Bloch, Drica Moraes
Review by: David Trier
One of the fascinating things for me about the Brazilian entertainment industry is that their big stars are mostly sitcom and soap opera actors. Here we may deify people like Seinfeld, but we'll never accept him as any other character. Although the lines in the American industry are blurring, there calling someone a famous actor doesn't necessarily imply they're in film. So anyway, I'll be watching an actor cry over the death of his father and my wife (who's Brazilian) will walk through the living room, recognize the actor immediately, and say something like "Oh, he's soooooo funny." Well, she's right. He's funny too.

The story revolves around Mary Ann (Amy Irving), an American English teacher in Rio de Janeiro, and the characters she teaches (sort of). Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes) is a recently divorced lawyer who catches a glimpse of her in his building and falls for her. His firm is negotiating the contract of Acacio (Alexandre Borges), a famous soccer (pronounced footeybauw) player who's been sold to a British team. Pedro Paulo's intern Sharon (Giovanna Antonelli) does most of the negotiating, being a perky soccer lover obsessed with him. But Pedro Paulo's brother (Flavio Sao Thiago) works as a tailor with his father and has fallen desperately in love with Sharon. Acacio is taking classes with Mary Ann to learn nasty English phrases to taunt his opponents in England. Mary Ann's friend Nadine had developed an internet romance with an American businessman (Stephen Tobolowski) and hopes to visit him with the help of travel agent, Tania (Debora Bloch), Pedro Paulo's ex.

Yeah, actually the story's pretty complicated. But the film flows more smoothly than one would expect. This is a top-notch romantic comedy which in my opinion easily beats out the recent smeg we call romantic comedy here. The characters are likeable even when they make stupid mistakes and the film isn't afraid to deny them of everything they may deserve in the end. The idea of romance is entertaining more than it is exploitative and the comedy is more situational than the setup/punchline formula we're used to. One of my favorite things about Bossa Nova is that characters are speaking English only when English would actually be spoken. Films set in countries where everyone has a silly quasi-British/French accent really annoy me. Most of the film is in Portuguese with the best subtitles in the world, yellow ones. The acting is superb all around. Antonio Fagundes is charming like Sean Connery, but with a realistic sensitivity that's usually missing in these parts. Amy Irving (who's married to the director in real life) is very pleasant and believable in a role that's refreshingly mature for romantic comedies. Flavio Sao Thiago is touching and funny without being sappy or clown-like and Giovanna Antonelli is an energetic joy... and hot. Borges' Acacio is also quite believable as the arrogant yet appealing soccer star.

Bruno Barretto is probably the most successful film director to come out of Brazil for a long time. His political drama Four Days in September is an excellent film about Brazil's catastrophic political condition in the 1960s. On the other hand, his American cop drama One Tough Cop was so unbelievable retarded I turned it off after half an hour out of fear that it might somehow infect the quality of my VCR. Parts of Bossa Nova are just mindless fluff (which may not be bad depending on your tastes). The movie doesn't really cover any new ground on relationships and the character connections are often more than convenient. Nadine's internet lover happens to be an American doing business with her friend's romantic interest in Rio? But in its defense, it's a romantic comedy. It's sweet without being lame and for that it deserves a good review. Plus, if I said it sucked I think my wife would kill me.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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