Behind Paris, Je T’aime and New York, I Love You comes Rio, I Love You - the third installment in the Cities of Love series. This series is intended to pay homage to a particular place, telling stories that diffuse stereotypes by making way for short vignettes of alternative stories from the city’s various neighborhoods. Counting for ethereal storylines and eyebrow raising attempts at emotionality, Rio, I Love You fell short.
Director Paolo Sorrentino kicks off the vignettes with the story of Dorothy, an entitled child of a grown American woman, and her aging, diabetic, health problem-ridden and – we mustn’t forget – wealthy husband James. Dorothy is a serial complainer. We can see as she snaps at a hotel maid early in the vignette that she’s been spoon fed luxury. Her mean rich girl complex is overridden for the most part since money buys her out of following certain rules of real life. Aware of his wife’s cushy comfort-induced princess antics, husband James is disappointedly defeated.
This opening short had potential; there were elements of regretful acceptance in a stuck-with-you relationship that is wildly colored with shades of grey in its principles. But ultimately, the dialogue between the two is somehow dull and peeving at the same time. Viewers are left wondering why the two are like that – particularly Dorothy’s character. Tacit understanding is itching to be felt, even for annoying characters like these. But sympathy had to be contrived for both this suffocated middle-aged woman and this dissipating rich old man. The ingredients of a complex and intelligent story were all there; it was just haphazardly executed.
The film reaches a tentative high throughout Fernando Meirelles’ and Guillermo Arriaga’s segments. The former’s storyline follows the ever-strangely captivating Vincent Cassel as a sand sculpture artist. It is a wordless short and marked by drum rhythms customized for the people around him. We see bare feet and we see shadows; we also see vast overhead shots of the lush and hilly Rio landscape. In the latter’s short, a former boxer and model suffer grave injuries from a car accident, and are given an opportunity to change their fates. The actors’ performances carried the vignettes with subtle seriousness without scraping corny.
And with that, we see a side of a city that should be on display: non-sunny, rough cut and pseudo-connected to reality enough for cinematic effect – not just a twinkly tourism video keen on inviting a couple thousand Facebook shares. Rio, I Love You needed to run with this just a few notches farther, but it never quite made it.
Written by Dara Kim