Film Review: Brazil Chases Oscar with ‘Bingo: The King of the Mornings’

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One of the central plot points in “Bingo: The King of the Mornings” sees our protagonist pleading to change the script for the American TV franchise in which he stars. He argues that the humor will not translate well to Brazilian kids, suggesting they add more edge. After watching this biopic, however, it’s hard not to wish the film had fully committed to that same philosophy.

“Bingo: The King of the Mornings” is the true story of an unusual star. Augusto is a struggling actor who has made his living through roles in softcore porn and bit parts in soap operas. He is an ambitious man however and wants to be a leading man his son can be proud of. One day, he gets a lucky opportunity to take his career to the next level. He stumbles on an audition to play a clown named Bingo, the host of a children’s TV show. With his quick wit and exuberant personality, he lands the part. But it comes with a catch, as he is banned from revealing his true identity. Before long, Bingo is the talk of the town. Augusto however, remains just another unknown face in the crowd.

The contradictions of Augusto’s life are evident from the very first scene. With his son waiting, we see him on set acting out a nude love scene in a softcore porn film. Later we see him endearingly interacting with his son, with their mutual love exuding brightly from the actors’ faces.

Outside of his fatherly duties, however, Augusto’s personal life is no less salacious than his pre-Bingo roles. Indeed, his road to stardom includes the typical vices of “sex, drugs, and alcohol.” The storyline, therefore, becomes predictable as it fulfills the usual “famous actor biopic” beats.

Whether he is playing Augusto and Bingo, Vladimir Brichta is always captivating, however. His lively performance and magnetic screen presence successfully convey a man who was destined to be a star. In fact, he evokes Tom Cruise with his lean physique and enviable mane of silky dark hair. This is most blatant in a quitting scene that may bring back memories of “Jerry Maguire”.

Aside from this compelling lead performance, however, there is hardly much memorable about the film. While Augusto’s various addictions provide a subversive edge to contrast the juvenile entertainment, it misses the mark when it comes to its most interesting aspect. Namely, apart from a few scenes surrounding an awards show, it doesn’t quite delve into the psychological agony of being famous without anyone knowing your name. On the contrary, Augusto’s glamorous lifestyle seems hardly any different from countless other portrayals of celebrity.

“Bingo: The King of the Mornings” is never boring. Indeed, Rezende’s background as an editor is evident in the film’s brisk pacing. But unfortunately, it brings nothing new to the “famous men behaving badly” tropes. “Bingo: The King of the Mornings” claims to introduce us to the “man behind the mask,” but he ends up feeling like someone we already knew.

“Bingo: The King of the Mornings” is the Brazilian submission for the 2017 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

GRADE: (★★½)

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