The Joy -- Film Review



CANNES -- Teen fantasy has rarely been as detached as in "The Joy," a forced Brazilian romp that seems like the distant echo of a 1968 home movie, whipped up while Mom and Dad were away for the weekend. Apart from the discovery of sassy, charismatic lead Taina Medina, of whom more will certainly be heard, this low-profile title is unlikely to make waves. It is the second film in a trilogy by young filmmakers Felipe Braganca and Marina Meliande, whose first installment was "The Escape of the Monkey Woman."

Two men traditionally costumed in bright-colored rags are jumping around in a forest dance, when one is suddenly shot by an unseen attacker. Later, at a rich kids' party in the city presided over by the poetry-quoting 16-year-old Lu (Medina), we learn that policemen killed five rebels in the forest and her cousin is feared dead.
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Together with her three best friends, Lu forms a group dedicated to joyful living. With barely a parent in sight, freedom is at hand. Underlining Lu's intent, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is frequently heard as the four friends playfully gambol, make love, dump laundry soap in a public fountain and do other rebellious things. When the sad-faced, wounded cousin (or his ghost?) turns up, Lu hides him and makes him part of the group. Suddenly it's time for full-blown student rebellion and clashes with police in the street.

The film's bow to youth pop culture seems lifted from another era, and the casual spouting of anti-consumer, pro-dreams slogans rings very hollow with this band of kids, whose idols are Madonna and Beyonce. The attractive non-pro cast is but a pretty backdrop to the pouting, sexy Medina, wise beyond her years and twice shot in Lolita underwear stamped with little pink hearts. Her charms are not lost on a giant sea monster covered with pearls and shells, who tries to carry her off to the depths in the final scenes.

Venue: Festival de Cannes -- Directors Fortnight
Sales: Figa Films
Production companies: Duas Mariola Filmes, Arissas Multimedia, RT/Features
Cast: Taina Medina, Flora Dias, Rikle Miranda, Cesar Cardadeiro
Directors: Felipe Braganca, Marian Meliande
Screenwriter: Felipe Braganca
Producers: Laura Frigotto, Felipe Braganca, Marina Meliande
Director of photography: Andrea Capella
Production designer: Gustavo Braganca
Music: Lucas Marcier
Editor: Marina Meliande
No rating, 106 minutes