RIO, I LOVE YOU Review
RIO, I LOVE YOU is the third in the “Cities of Love” series begun with “Paris, Je T’Aime” (“Paris, I Love You”), which bring together famous directors and stars to create a series of little romantic stories around one city. The city getting the love-letter this time is Rio, home of the upcoming Olympics. However, despite its impressive list of directors, there is little to impress in “Rio, I Love You.”
RIO, I LOVE YOU boasts a more impressive line up of directors that the last one, “New York, I Love You,” but nonetheless continues the series decline in quality from the first one. Directors include Paolo Sorrentino (“Youth”), Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”), and Sang-Soo Im (“The Housemaid”), among others, but none of them shine in this mixed-up film. Rather than having the stories start and end clearly, as in the first two films, several stories make false starts or overlap with characters from others, and are blended in with mostly aerial picture-postcard shots of Rio’s distinct landscape or beaches. Besides making it look like a tourist ad, it makes it difficult to tell when stories start or end.
The international cast includes Emily Mortimer, Vincent Cassel, Harvey Keitel, Jason Isaacs, John Turturro (who wrote, directs and stars in his segment) and Fernanda Montenegro, but the stories, some of which make little sense, hardly make good use of them. Most disappointing is Paolo Sorrentino’s segment “La Fortuna,” which stars Emily Mortimer as a much younger trophy wife who needles her older, wheelchair-bound architect husband (Basil Hoffman) until the segment comes to a chillingly cold end. The great actress Fernanda Montenegro stars in an odd bit as a grandmother who chooses to live as a homeless person, trying to convince her grandson that bathing in a fountain is much more fun.
Director Sang-Soo Im’s fantasy segment features a waiter/vampire who leads a parade of dancing prostitute/vampires down a street. Another nonsensical segment has an Australian movie star ditching his appearance at a film festival to impulsively free-climb Sugarloaf mountain. Turturro’s segment stars him and singer Vanessa Paradis as a longtime couple breaking up, which ends with her singing like a music video. A segment about a hang-glider soaring Rio’s iconic Christ statue while criticizing the city seems pointless.
There are a few segments that work a little better, although they are not enough to save the film. One is a brief, wordless segment starring Vincent Cassel and featuring interesting camera angles, as a beach sand sculptor instantly falls in love and immediately has his heart broken, but is inspired to make his art better. The sweetest story, directed and co-starring Nadine Labaki, features a little boy who has staked out a pay phone in a train station, because he is waiting for a call from Jesus, and Harvey Keitel as an actor playing a priest, who helps that dream come true.
Guillermo Arriaga’s “Texas” is the strongest drama, centering on a former boxer with that nickname and his former model wife, both injured in a car accident that put her in a wheelchair and cost him his arm. The couple get an offer from an American, played by Jason Isaacs, that could help them or further ruin their lives. In another segment “Pas de Deux,” a pair of ballet dancers and lovers, argue about their future as they dance.
RIO, I LOVE YOU is the weakest of the series, but it is unlikely to be the last.
RIO, I LOVE YOU opens on April 15th, 2016