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'Bossa Nova'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 26, 2000


    'Bossa Nova' Amy Irving plays a widow who finds love in Rio de Janeiro. (Sony Pictures Classics)
How can a movie about love, set in Rio de Janeiro, and filled with bossa nova songs manage to be un-romantic, nonsexual and hellaciously dull? Director Bruno ("Dona Flor and her Two Husbands") Barreto and his leading lady, Amy Irving, show you how – as long as you can stay awake long enough to appreciate their dubious achievement. The story, freely adapted from Sergio Sant'Anna's novel "Miss Simpson," is unspeakably narcoleptic. Irving, who is also Barreto's wife, plays an American widow in Rio, who gives English lessons to some "wacky" clients, including a Brazilian soccer player who wants to pick up some choice English insults before joining a certain well known team in Manchester, England. She meets Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes), a lawyer whose marriage is floundering, who signs up for classes in the hope of attracting her. This inevitable hookup is delayed interminably, as we encounter even less interesting characters, including Sharon (Giovanna Antonelli), an office intern who's having an e-mail affair with an unattractive, nerdy American (Stephen Tobolowsky) who's pretending to be handsome and arty. To add insult to lethargy, this movie is dedicated to composer Tom Jobim and French filmmaker Francois Truffaut, neither of whom gets much of a tribute. Jobim's songs are gone as soon as they are introduced, and they seem forced into the story. And if this multilevel romance is meant to replicate the light, smart atmosphere of Truffaut's early romantic comedie, well, it simply doesn't.

BOSSA NOVA (R, 95 minutes) – In Portuguese with subtitles.


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