BOSSA NOVA, by Brazilian director Bruno Baretto, dances across very familiar ground in the romantic comedy genre but is buoyed along by fine performances and great production values. Which is to say it doesn't get beyond the trappings of the genre but is innocuous and fun enough to do decent business here. In many ways the film is a love letter to Amy Irving who is director Baretto's wife. Irving - who is aging gracefully - stars as Mary Ann Simpson, a widowed English teacher living in Brazil who lives alone but isn't particularly lonely.Like a television sitcom, numerous characters within the film are at some stage of romance in their lives and there are many misunderstandings and silly incidents. Each of them are pursuing or are pursued — or both — and throughout the film meet each other with comical, serendipitous chance encounters.
A wealthy, aging lawyer named Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes) - whose wife is sleeping with a Chinese Tai-Chi trainer - begins to chase after Mary Ann. He is very charming, dresses well and exudes money and to be closer to her he takes her English class so he can make casual passes at her.
Meanwhile, a private student of hers named Nadine (Drica Moraes) has an Internet relationship with a (supposed) artist living in New York whom she hasn't met yet. Mary Ann is pursued by another of her students named Acacio (Alexandre Borges), a famous soccer player who is taking her class because he has been sold to an English team. Acacio needs a lawyer to work out his contract difficulties so he seeks the advice of Pedro Paulo. While there, Acacio falls for Pedro's intern who happens to be casually dating Pedro's brother Roberto. Meanwhile... you get the idea.
The only unique aspect to BOSSA NOVA is that the two main characters — Mary Ann and Pedro — are over the age of 40. It's a credit to director Barreto that he avoids the old man, young woman clichés of the genre and makes the age difference of the two leads nonexistent. But still, it marches along, never letting go of the fact that it is the world of a predictable movie.BOSSA NOVA is propelled along by a very romantic look — particularly with postcard shots of Rio — and set to a lush bossa nova score. The film takes its sweet time establishing the relationships and showing us an idyllic Rio and ultimately - since it has nothing to hide in its message about love - it is a rather pleasing, though unremarkable, movie. --- Matt Langdon - http://www.ifmagazine.com