Published Mar 27, 2008The year is 1970, and Brazil is under a military dictatorship. But it may as well be sunny California for all Cao Hamburger gets out of this standard "the summer I lost my innocence movie, which despite trauma both political and personal doesnt show you anything you couldnt have divined from a synopsis.
The hero is a prepubescent Jewish boy (clearly a stand-in for the director), whose parents drop him at his grandfathers flat and disappear under uncertain circumstances. The secularised boy immediately clashes with this unfamiliar patriarch but that doesnt stop him from spying on sex objects, dreaming about the World Cup and chumming around with the ballsy local girl familiar from millions of these kinds of movies. One could fault it for giving no nuanced sense of the politics of the time, but its under no obligation to do so: its not Hamburgers fault that his youth coincided with the worst possible circumstances.
Whats really wrong is that he falls into the familiar trap of condescending to your past from the distance of the present. This movie is way, way too cute, and delivered in broad enough shorthand to at once remind you of your own experiences while stamping out the nuances that might make for an interesting comparison. The events of the movie are so non-confrontational that you wonder if he actually lived the awkward, frustrating, confusing pubescence that everybody else did.
If you like your edges round and smooth, I suppose this is a professional enough entry into the genre. But dont worry if you miss it: this kind of thing gets cranked out by the gross both in Hollywood and anywhere else people have forgotten what its actually like to grow up. (Mongrel Media)