Review: Reaching for the Moon

While Rio-born director Bruno Barreto’s American movies have been an awkward bunch (Carried Away, One Tough Cop, View From The Top) this wholly Brazilian production (in English and Portuguese) is stronger and surely about as compelling as a movie about a poet could possibly be.

While Rio-born director Bruno Barreto’s American movies have been an awkward bunch (Carried Away, One Tough Cop, View From The Top) this wholly Brazilian production (in English and Portuguese) is stronger and surely about as compelling as a movie about a poet could possibly be. The celebrated US poetry-monger Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto in an uncomfortable performance that’s apparently close to the real thing) is introduced trying out one of her poems on longtime confidante and wannabe-boyfriend Robert Lowell (Treat Williams) in New York in the early ‘50s. He puts the hard word on her but she isn’t interested as she’s gay, although she’s never really admitted this to herself or anyone else. We next see her jetting off to see old schoolfriend (and onetime-very-nearly-girlfriend) Mary (Tracy Middendorf) in Brazil. Here she meets Mary’s partner, the famed architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires), and while Lota thinks that Elizabeth’s an uptight pain in the arse at first, these two women are eventually swooning for each other, as Mary fumes and Elizabeth is driven both to win a Pulitzer Prize and develop a considerable drinking problem. The Aussie Otto and the Brazilian Pires are both about as good as each other in this sometimes handsome, sometimes cheap-looking drama. Yet it’s hard to appreciate their performances all too often as their characters are so damn frustrating. Why they ever fell so hard for each other is anyone’s guess, as Elizabeth is so stiff and tense she’s just about imploding, while Lota seems so wild and full of life she might be on the edge of a psychotic episode. Review: ***

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