Bossa Nova

on April 28, 2000 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
As delightful as a Rio de Janeiro sea breeze, "Bossa Nova" hearkens back to those fun-filled romantic comedy romps that appear all too infrequently on our bigscreens these days. Refreshingly centered on the escapades de amor of the boomer crowd, "Bossa Nova" sashays and beckons to all those who think that love has passed them by, encouraging them get out there and, well, keep dancing.

Amy Irving plays Mary Ann, an English teacher and former airline flight attendant living in a radiant Rio de Janeiro while still recovering from the unexpected death of her pilot husband. The gentle (and sometimes ferocious) winds of longing blow all about Mary Ann as a student and buddy, Nadine, insists she has met the man of her dreams over the Internet, and brash new student and soccer star Acacio (Alexander Borges) hints none too subtly that he is Mary Ann's (and any other woman's) for the asking.

An unexpected beacon shines on Mary Ann in the presence of lawyer Pedro Paulo (the very charming Antonio Fagundes), who's so captivated by the teacher that he enrolls in Mary Ann's class when he speaks fluent English. Pedro proves an especially ardent White Knight when he returns temporarily to his tailor roots to present Mary Ann with a tender homemade gift that invites her to leave her widow's weeds behind.

But in Rio, as everywhere else, the road to love is fraught with perils, and soon Mary Ann and Pedro are awash in misunderstandings and confusion. Helping push the chaos along are Pedro's enterprising young intern, Sharon, whose frankness smites Pedro's shy half-brother Roberto, and Pedro's nostalgic, impractical father, Juan, escaping the clutches of yet another wife. Along the edges skulks Pedro's own estranged wife, travel agent Tania, who helps arrange Nadine's trip to meet Mr. Internet while she reconsiders the Tai-chi instructor for whom she has left Pedro.

Based on the novel "Miss Simpson" by Sergio Sant'Anna, "Bossa Nova's" tangle of romantic hopes and disappointments are not unfamiliar but, as deftly delivered by director Bruno Barreto (Irving's husband), the romantic inevitabilities float enchantingly along providing a number of laughs, the proper dose of bitter-sweetness, screwball mix-ups and satisfying results all set to a delightful selection of balmy bossa nova tracks. Consider it an early breath of Spring. Starring Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes and Alexandre Borges. Directed by Bruno Barreto. Written by Alexandre Machado and Fernanda Young. Produced by Lucy Barreto and Luiz Carlos Barreto. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Romantic comedy. Portuguese-, Spanish- and English-language; subtitled. Running time: 92 min.

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