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May 21, 2024

Behind the guise of innovative filmmaking, Música only exacerbates a trend of harmful stereotypes

By MARIANA FERREIRA | April 22, 2024



The film Música relies on poorly portrayed aspects of Brazilian culture in an attempt to hide its overused plotlines and clichés. 

There is one specific thing Fast Five and Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Part I have in common... any guesses?

Both cult classics and box office hits were set partially in Brazil. Characters danced, infused themselves in the beautiful scenery and spoke terrible Portuguese when they claimed to be fluent. Both films indulge themselves in Brazilian stereotypes and are popular portrayals of Brazilian culture around the world. Yet, Prime Video’s new film Música aims to set itself apart from the rest. 

In his directorial debut, Rudy Mancuso casts himself as Rudy, a current college student from the Ironbound, N.J., whose mind turns regular sounds into musical tunes that distract him from his everyday life. He carries this burden, while also dreaming of one day becoming a professional puppeteer.

We first meet Rudy while he is speaking to his girlfriend Haley (Francesca Reale), a rich white girl, who expresses her disdain for his aimlessness and proceeds to break up with him. Rudy then meets a new girl, Isabella (Camila Mendes), a Brazilian whom he falls in love with at a fish shop. As Haley crawls her way back to Rudy, Rudy and Isabella grow closer and closer to each other. Unable to decide between the two, Rudy decides to date both at the same time.

The sound design is beautiful. With its repeated isolation and rhythmic blending of everyday sounds, it becomes an integral part of the audience’s understanding of Rudy’s mind and the chaos he must endure daily. In this movie, silence is loud — almost every scene is filled with some type of beat or rhythm. 

Visually, the movie is a mix of innovative lighting and cinematography, while reflecting popular online trends with its transitions and editing.  This can be seen with Mancuso’s use of quick transitions, continuous shots and an array of different camera movements. Certain scenes have a way of grabbing your attention and reflect the influence of social media trends, also attributed to Mancuso’s background as an internet personality. 

But the appeal to the film ends there, as the plot itself lacks flavor. When you look past the ideas of the shallow cultural portrayal the film provides us with, there is much to be desired. This movie is a rom-com filled with cool musical numbers and a unique main character, yet it is boring and predictable. He is dating a girl, meets another one and decides to date both at the same time... gee, I wonder how that’s gonna turn out. The plot and scenes eventually get so stagnant that it feels like we are stuck in a never-ending loop of Rudy’s bad decisions. This stagnation completely throws off any educational value the film has to offer, because by its end, we are too tired of the film to learn anything from it. 

Though the film has many references to Brazilian culture either through the beats and rhythms of the music or through the bright color palette of the set and costumes, it portrays a gross oversimplification of Brazilian culture. The film uses Brazilian identity to give it life, yet doesn’t spend any time trying to expand the viewer’s mind on what Brazilian culture actually is. 

Instead, it harps on stereotypical phrases such as “chin chin” every time characters tap their glasses and justifies the actions of the characters only by the fact that they are “Brazilian.” Characters don’t order any Brazilian drink other than a caipirinha, which — while a popular drink — is brought up so much that one suspects it might be the only Brazilian drink the writer actually knows. Granted, this is not a movie about Brazil, but since the movie is titled in Brazilian Portuguese, it might suggest to the viewer that Brazilian culture would be thoroughly explored, not just included to add flair and intrigue to an exhausted storyline. 

Harmless as this may seem, the use of Brazilian culture in this manner reflects the harmful stereotypes that are often exacerbated in Hollywood for the sake of entertainment. Instead of making way for real narratives and expanding the audience’s view on a culture, some films harp on exaggerated and often inaccurate details which only strengthens misconceptions about different cultural groups. Often, Hollywood’s catering to a western audience causes more harm than good. Behind the curtain of good cinematography and interesting sound design, Música lacks the proper plot structure to stand on its own without the intrigue and addition of culture.

Sometimes, the films that you are most hesitant to watch are the ones that hit closest to home. Films that address specific life experiences, touch on your identity or attempt to emulate your culture create an incredibly sensitive experience for the viewer and must be taken seriously. Accuracy in film is pivotal to the medium’s credibility and survival. Música is a clear reminder that films are not only entertainment but a form of education to be taken seriously — maybe it's time Hollywood remembers that too.

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