A wonderful, subversive musical comedy that elevates synesthesia to the level of film

By Gita Samanta Mar21,2024
A wonderful, subversive musical comedy that elevates synesthesia to the level of filmA wonderful, subversive musical comedy that elevates synesthesia to the level of film

His first feature film, directed by him, is a clever and endearing tale of a coming-of-age love story with a musical element. It is a masterful cinematic depiction of synesthesia, making you forget about the other, misguided attempts to thread the same needle (does anyone remember “August Rush”?).

Thankfully, the days of “FRED: The Movie” are over; we now live in the age of social media filmmakers. With videos like Danny and Michael Philippou’s “Talk to Me” and Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” YouTube is beginning to look like a promising place for budding filmmakers. Mancuso, a Vine star turned YouTuber, is the latest to take the leap, and he gives it everything he has in “Música.” Based on his experience as a Brazilian-American choreographed, composed, and directed the semi-autobiographical tale. He is unable to focus on what other people are saying due to this problem.

A wonderful, subversive musical comedy that elevates synesthesia to the level of film
A wonderful, subversive musical comedy that elevates synesthesia to the level of film

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Rudy, who lives with his mother in Newark, New Jersey, is a part-time street performer and college student in the movie. He feels lost and aimless, just like a lot of young people his age do. As graduation draws closer, Rudy isn’t sure if he wants to follow his mother’s advice and go into marketing. He puts on a puppet show at a local subway station using Diego, a character from Mancuso’s actual YouTube series, “Awkward Puppets,” but he’s not sure if he wants to or even knows how to advance it.

Haley (Francesca Reale), his longtime girlfriend, is planning to move across the river with him, but he doesn’t seem to be all that dedicated, and she doesn’t seem to get his synesthesia or his enthusiasm for music. His mother, Maria (played by Mancuso’s real mother, Maria Mancuso), puts more pressure on them to forget about the gringa and marry a proper Brazilian girl.

After a quarrel with Haley, Rudy meets Isabella (Camila Mendes), a Brazilian-American girl living in the local fish market who seems to instantly grasp and accept Rudy’s complete proposition. This is when things start to shift. Naturally, Rudy is a moron, having received horrible counsel from his closest friend Anwar (J.B. Smoove, a scene-stealer), a food truck owner who appears to fit into every ethnic group he encounters. Rudy eventually finds himself in a romantic triangle since he is seeing both of the girls concurrently.

“Música” is an incredibly adorable romance film. There are many clichés in the narrative, such as the idea that Rudy is the sole reason for each character’s existence. However, Mancuso and co-writer Dan Lagana—who also co-created the fantastic “American Vandal”—manage to embrace those clichés in order to produce unexpectedly inventive and novel payoffs.

Mancuso and Mendes’ excellent chemistry helps to sell their developing friendship as the camera lingers on little details and glances between them in their encounters. Not only is the speech hilarious, but there are also some very humorous visual gags, such one at the end of the movie at a restaurant when Rudy appears to be speaking musically with a pianist.

Regarding the movie’s protagonist, Mancuso is a revelation. The multihyphenate director is able to be endearing, humorous, captivating, and a character you want to support throughout the entire story.

Not surprise, “Música” excels in its music-related content. In a beautiful musical, directed by Mancuso and photographed by Shane Hurlbut, not a single person performs a conventional song and dance routine. Apart from a few brief moments where Rudy sings as his comic puppet, Diego, there are no lyrics. This is one of the movie’s highlights and a constant reminder that everything is better with puppets.

Despite this, the film features some stunning sequences, such as a one-shot scene that depicts Rudy’s love triangle routine. The scene has him moving from his bedroom to a country club, then to his kitchen, a café, his mother’s salon, a nightclub, a movie theater, and back again, with the set rotating like a stage play and a samba groove accompanying the mayhem.

A lot of real Brazilian instruments and noises are used in the music, which adds to the film’s authenticity. Similar to how Brazilian funk and bossa nova impact the primarily diegetic soundtrack, samba drums are heard as frequently as cuicas.

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