'Paulo Coelho's Best Story': Film Review

Courtesy of Music Box Films
Even Coelho's most ardent fans will find this disjointed effort lacking.

Daniel Augusto's biopic chronicles the life of the Brazilian author of the best-sellers "The Alchemist" and "The Pilgrimage."

Biopics of writers are notoriously difficult to pull off and, unfortunately, Daniel Augusto's film about the Brazilian author of such international literary blockbusters as The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage is no exception. Despite its subject having led a colorful life, Paulo Coelho's Best Story is too diffuse and disjointed to pack much of a punch. Only the writer's most ardent fans — and they are legion, judging by his book sales of over 190 million copies — will find anything of interest here.

Using a fragmented, non-linear approach, the film, written by Carolina Kotscho, tells the life story of Coelho (played in his younger and older versions by siblings Ravel and Julio Andrade) from his troubled youth, when his rebellious ways and suicide attempts led to his being institutionalized several times, to his sixties, when he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his greatest literary success by once again walking the Road of Santiago de Compostela.

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Along the way he experimented with drugs; became a successful songwriter in collaboration with the Brazilian rock star Raul Seixas (Lucci Ferreira); was arrested for his subversive lyrics by the ruling military government; and, after writing several books that proved less than successful, achieved worldwide fame with The Alchemist. Regarding the smash hit — in a scene that will surely resonate with every writer— he's initially told by his agent that "this book isn't any good."

These events and more are presented in a melodramatic, visually overheated style that quickly proves wearisome. Despite the copious scenes depicting drug use and sex — the latter involving a sexy lover/muse (Paz Vega) as well as Coelho's loving, supportive wife (Fabiana Gugli) — the proceedings are relentlessly dull. More to the point, the film fails in its primary goal of making us fully understand the author's artistic development, admittedly a difficult task.

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As seen in the film, one of the oft-quoted passages from The Alchemist is, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it." In this case, the universe seems to have let the filmmaker down.

Production: Babel Films, Dama Filmes
Cast: Julio Andrade, Ravel Andrade, Nancho Novo, Fabiana Gugli, Fabiula Nascimento, Enrique Diaz, Lucci Ferreira, Paz Vega\
Director: Daniel Augusto
Screenwriter: Carolina Kotscho
Producers: Iona de Macedo, Carolina Kotscho, Angelica Huete|
Director of photography: Jacob Solitrenick
Production designer: Antxon Gomez
Editors: Leticia Giffoni, Daniel Augusto
Costume designer: Ana Avelar
Composer: Pascal Gaigne

Not rated, 112 minutes

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