We get superhero reboots and bombastic blockbusters every summer. But is that what the public really want to see? Wouldn’t they rather watch a Brazilian version of The Hangover?
Sorry to disappoint fans of The Hangover but I’m not talking about the third instalment of the franchise set in Rio or Sao Paulo. The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell is actually far superior and extremely different to the gross out antics of Bradley Cooper and co. Despite the promise of a “wild time” on the production notes and lots of mad rushing around the seedier side of an exotic city, The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell is a light hearted and warm tale about the joy of life.
It’s the story of Quincas who dies in bed, bottle in hand, on his 72nd birthday. His friends, all of whom resemble tramps or whores, are waiting to throw him a surprise party. When he doesn’t show and they discover his death, they are left devastated. A group of guys, this film’s very own wolf pack, even refer to him as their “Daddy”.
Meanwhile in a more respectable and well dressed part of town, his real daughter, Vanda, is informed of his death. After the initial shock she and her husband panic because in their social circles they have spread the elaborate explanation that Quincas ran off with a rich Italian heiress. She is ashamed of the sordid lifestyle her father embraced and prefers to dwell on the memory of him receiving a gold watch for years of service as a clerk, accountant or some such boring bureaucratic role. Underneath all her snobbish judgements she is simply jealous of her father’s new family of eccentrics. She had not seen him for 15 years, until she laid eyes on his corpse.
Quincas, played by Paulo Jose, narrates the bumbling night of adventure that follows his disappointingly ordinary passing. Adapted from Jorge Amado’s novel by writer/director Sergio Machado, this is a film full of extraordinary and colourful characters, providing humour of all kinds. Rather than a gasping heap of giggles on the floor, you are left glowing, with a heartfelt smile across your face and the beginnings of a laugh, whether the gag is a farting aunt or misguided poetry.
The mischievous friends of the deceased, once slightly liberated by booze, decide to take him for the birthday party on the town he would have wanted. They convince themselves that he is not dead for the purposes of the evening’s gallivanting. Driven by grief, camaraderie and anger at the stuck up family trampling on his personal philosophy, they go for a tour of Quincas’ old haunts. Eventually they are pursued by the police and his daughter, who learn their own lessons about life along the way.
You get a sense that pulsing at the core of this film is the essence of the original novel, which accounts for its strong, captivating characters and life affirming messages. Quincas was living the dream, bold enough to shake off the shackles of his dreary day to day life in favour of fun and freedom in his final years. So many stories revolve around that wise old saying, life is short, but The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell really shows that the happiness to be found in one night, in the saddest of circumstances, can better a lifetime of respectable conformity.
Out on August the 1st on Blu-Ray and DVD, this is a feel good film with a difference, full of wit and wisdom.