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Self-glorifying cliché biopic disguised as uplifting moral lesson
"2 Filhos de Francisco" is based on the real rags-to-riches life story (minus the objectionable bits -- it's supposed to function as a fairy-tale) of the most commercially successful Brazilian singing duo of the last decade, Zezé di Camargo&Luciano. They grew up in dire poverty in a shack in middle-of-nowhere rural Goiás (Brazilian Midwest) and made it big in the 1990s, having sold 20+ million records since, with their "pop-sertanejo" songs (similar to U.S. pop- Country&Western, and just as mellow and repetitive). The film is centered on Francisco, their iron-willed, kind- hearted, semi-literate but highly ambitious, business-wise land-sharer father, who obsessively pushes his pre-teen sons Mirosmar (later called Zezé) and Emival to self-learn to sing and play sertanejo music as the only possible way to escape poverty. The family overcomes all odds and tragic events including the boys' lack of natural talent and proper education (musical or otherwise); Emival's death in a car accident, later replaced in the duo by younger brother Luciano; the sleazy-with-a-heart-of-gold musical agent; the record company's insensitive exec, etc -- to finally be blessed with glory, fame and fortune in São Paulo, but not before squeezing every tear out of sobbing audiences.
"2 Filhos..." is the highest grossing Brazilian film in the last 20 years (approx. 5.5 million viewers). Not really surprising -- "sertanejo/caipira" culture has always been extremely lucrative in Brazil. Late actor Mazzaropi made dozens of record-breaking hits from the 1950s to the 1980s and remains the 2nd all-time Brazilian box-office movie star (the 1st is Renato Aragão). Great Brazilian filmmaker Nelson Pereira dos Santos ("Rio 40 Graus", "Vidas Secas") had one of his biggest commercial hits with "Na Estrada da Vida" (the model for "2 Filhos..."), based on the real life of sertanejo duo Zé Rico&Milionário, who played themselves. Sertanejo has been the most popular musical genre in many regions of Brazil for decades, and its stars are some of the richest Brazilian entertainers. Besides, it was co-produced by Zezé&Luciano themselves (why play humble?), distributed by Globo Filmes (subsidiary of the most powerful Brazilian media corporation, TV Globo), with substantial financing from a huge private bank and Brazil's biggest oil company (in-your-face merchandising inserts galore).
EVERY biopic cliché is thrown in by first-time screenwriters Carolina Kotscho and Patrícia Andrade (with help from veteran Domingos de Oliveira as script doctor), keeping things appallingly predictable every scene screams "formula!". The direction and visual treatment is professionally accomplished -- after all, first-time director Breno Silveira is an award-winning DP and publicity director. The film is made to match the popular lexicon of Brazilian soap-operas (dialog, performances) and TV ads (visually). Its ambition is to "upgrade" sertanejo culture to "mainstream": the filmmakers want Zezé&Luciano's audiences to be in awe with the film's "classy", dignified treatment of pop- sertanejo culture; but they ALSO want people who DON'T like Zezé&Luciano to watch it, as they summon MPB stars (Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia) and even rock stars (Nando Reis) to sing sertanejo songs in the soundtrack. Zezé&Luciano want to go "legit", to be granted a sort of "cultural validation" that musical critics and bourgeois elites never gave them, but when you're THAT rich, who cares?
"2 Filhos..." has its big share of misery-index, just as in Hollywood biopics: poverty, ignorance, prejudice, tragic events, misunderstandings etc, minus sex, violence, smoking, booze, drugs and good music:)). And whereas in the Hollywood biopic the star is blessed with extraordinary musical talents (think Billie Holliday, Tina, Ray, Charlie Parker...), the Camargos are self-reportedly limited: their success is based on sheer persistence, hard work, willpower and...the Brazilian "knack"/"jeitinho brasileiro" (the father buys phone tokens and convinces his friends and workmates to call radio stations in order to up-chart his sons' song!). Music is not dealt with as art or the expression of the soul: it's a way of dribbling famine (a good reason as any, by the way). "2 Filhos..." is NOT about being "blessed" with special musical gifts; it's about licitly escaping poverty any way you can in a country that leads the world's statistics in the gap between the rich and the poor. "2 Filhos " is the self- esteem booster for the average Brazilian citizen of 2005, disillusioned by the huge political corruption scandals perpetrated by top government acolytes of Brazil's first blue-collar, left- wing President Lula (who, symptomatically, is a big fan of the duo and hired them to sing in his Presidential campaign).
At the end of "2 Filhos...", the real Zezé -- his face stiff with botox, though he's just past 40 -- drives back to his childhood shack in his expensive car; his eyes get moist as he says "I've never been never as happy as I was here, back then" (the "money doesn't bring happiness" routine only rich people believe in). This scene symbolizes the film's ambiguous nature. It's a commercial product designed to make millions in tickets and records disguised as a morally uplifting lesson. It's a self- glorification enterprise disguised as a homage to the stars' father and the believe-in- your-dreams-b***s**t. Well, some of us won't buy the "poor, uneducated, but happy" and "we're just like you, only with tons of cash" patronizing stuff. The film's greatest appeal is its greatest fraud: making the audience believe it could be you or me up there, no need to go to school, learn your art properly or even speak plurals correctly! As realistic as winning the lottery:))) 5 minutes after the movie's over, you get this annoying feeling -- hey, THEY're the ones with loads of cash and YOU've just made them even richer!!!! É o amooooorrr$$$$$$$
My vote: 3 stars out of 10 -- 1 for Caetano Veloso/ Maria Bethânia's sublime rendition of "Tristeza do Jeca" in the closing credits; 1 for Dablio Moreira/Marcos Henrique's engaging performances as young Mirosmar and Emival; and 1 for Cláudia Kopke's on-target costumes, the only unglamorous feature in this falsely "humble" film that can't hide its cash-hunting, self-glorifying essence.
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