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 ALL ABOUT EVE,
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.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 95 mins.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.