Blame it on Rio (1984)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Blame it on Rio</strong> (1984)

(In French, On TV, October 2018) Oh, Michael Caine, how could you? I suppose that every long and distinguished career has its duds, but it’s still rare to associate such a great performer with a project as ill-advised from premise to polish as Blame it on Rio. It’s bad enough that the film has a fortysomething man having an affair with his friend’s 18-year-old daughter—the script does no one any favour as treating it as a sort of life-affirming comic experience for everyone involved. (Conveniently enough, the protagonist’s wife is later revealed to have had an affair with his friend … and the film thinks that explains and forgives everything.) For once, you can’t blame 2018-era viewers for revulsion as something that was de rigueur back in 1984—contemporary reviews of the film were just as horrified by the premise and nonplussed by its execution. Taking the form of a farce, Blame it on Rio compounds the wrongness of its premise by treating it as a source of wacky hijinks. How droll that the friend talks about killing his daughter’s unknown lover right in front of the protagonist! Even worse is the obvious approach of the film, which seems designed to cater to fortysomething fantasies rather than a realistic (or, heck, an empathetic) examination of the situation. No—in this film, the teenagers are merely fantasy figures actively looking for middle-aged lovers. (Try not to retch when the film makes a point of highlighting that the protagonist has known his teenager lover since she was a baby.) There is a remarkable disconnect between what the film assures us is normal, even light-hearted behaviour and what we suspect would happen if that scenario played in real-life. The whole thing feels dirty, and not the good kind of dirty—the kind where I can’t even bring myself to mention the name of the actress playing the teenager for fear of perpetuating the film’s voyeuristic exploitation of her nudity. To be fair, Rio is beautiful, there’s some material here that is mildly funny, and Caine gives it all he’s got—but the jokes fall flat considering the context, and we feel sorrier for Caine-the-actor than the character he’s playing. As a final indignity, the soundtrack is also too terrible for words. I thought last week that OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus was the worst film I’ve seen about Rio (and that came soon after Moonraker), but that title didn’t last long. Don’t blame Rio. Oh, Michael Caine, how could you?

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