Bossa Nova

             Actresses in Hollywood films have a rough time. In the heyday of
     Hollywood, powerful women like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Barbara
     Stanwyck ruled. By the century's midpoint, though, two important films
     pointed out the traumas faced by aging actresses. In
     Davis' Margo Channing was a 40-year-old actress still portraying
     ingenues while Gloria Swanson's 50-year-old Norma Desmond in
       SUNSET BLVD. was washed up and forgotten. In the prevailing years,
     the shelf life of women in Hollywood films became progressively shorter.
     No one blinks when a sixtysomething actor plays a romantic scene with
     a woman young enough to be his daughter, yet for some reason an
     actress over 40 is rarely portrayed as a sexual being (or if she is, it is
     often exaggerated for comedic effect or a set-up for tragedy). Despite
     the list of powerful and attractive females in their 40s and 50s (such as
     Rene Russo, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep and Susan
     Sarandon), this preconception is pervasive in the USA and its movies.

             Luckily, non-US directors don't share this sort of prejudice.
     Bruno Barreto, who broke through with the romantic comedy
DONA FLOR AND HER TWO HUSBANDS in the late 1970s returns to
     that genre with
BOSSA NOVA which provides not only rich roles for
     age-appropriate actors but also functions as a valentine to his (then)
     wife, the actress Amy Irving. Based on the novella
Miss Simpson, this
     gentle romance focuses on Mary Ann (Irving), a widowed flight
     attendant who has settled in Rio de Janeiro and makes a living teaching
     English. While riding in the elevator one day, she catches the attention
     of recently separated attorney Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes). Sparks fly
     and one knows it will only be a matter of time before their attraction
     leads to something more. In following the conventions of the genre,
     screenwriters Alexandre Machado and Fernanda Young employ several
     couples as counterpoint to the leads, including Nadine (Drica Moraes),
     one of Mary Ann's students who is conducting an Internet romance with
     an artist in NYC's SoHo district. Also orbiting the principals are Acacio
     (Alexandre Borges), a soccer star taking classes with Mary Ann, Tania
     (Debora Bloch), Pedro Paulo's estranged wife and a travel agent, Sharon
     (newcomer Giovanna Antonelli), a sexy legal intern, and Roberto (Pedro
     Cardoso), Pedro Paulo's younger half-brother who toils for their tailor

             The script skillfully brings these disparate characters together (i.e.,
     Nadine makes plans to visit Manhattan and the agent assisting her is
     Tania). Barreto maintains a light touch throughout, eliciting fine work
     from the principals (particularly Irving who positively glows and offers
     one of her most relaxed screen performances to date) along with Stephen
     Tobolowsky as a computer mogul with surprising ties to some of the
     characters. As in Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream, there are
     moments of misidentification, mismatched couples and above all romance.
     Employing the sensual music of Antonio Jobim as well as capturing the
     natural beauty of Rio,
BOSSA NOVA proves that love for the over-40 set
     can -- and does -- exist.

                                     Rating:            B-
                                     MPAA Rating:    R
                                     Running time:   95 mins.  
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.