The love of money is the root of all evil and the premise of many a movie over the years. There's usually a moral attached, a cautionary tale about avarice and materialism, and it's pretty amusing coming from those humble Buddhists who run Hollywood.
But the new film The Man Who Copied comes to us from Porto Alegra, Brazil and veteran South American filmmaker Jorge Furtado. In his story of a 19 year old who lives with his mother, works as a photocopier and dreams of affording more than one beer a week, Furtado takes the time to explore some complexities . Unfortunately they are the kind of complexities that make the characters and the film unbelievable. And if your characters can't maintain a moral center is that a complexity? Or just lazy filmmaking?
Andre runs the copy machine at a drug store where the impossibly sexy Marines is an underpaid counter worker. Marines is being courted by a junk dealer named Cardoso, cheerfully acknowledging that she will never sleep with him - or any man - until he's rich. Andre's eye has been captured by sweetly innocent Silvia, whom he couldn't help but notice by training his telescope on her tenement window. The very mundane nature of their lives suggest they aren't much different from the surrounding herd.
They are clothed. They are fed. But oh, the things that a little money could buy them.
Since photocopying plays predominantly in this tale, it's a foregone leap into counterfeiting. And for Andre, who has been loudly declaimed as a loser and a wimp, the bold risks and revenge he engineers are treated as a triumph of character rather than say...a descent into hell. In needlessly contrived entanglements and coincidence, the risks and the money get bigger. And the lesson learned is that money can buy a lot of cool stuff, that it's more fun being rich than poor, and that to make an omelet, you gotta break a few laws.
There's another rich history of films in which likable rogues pull scams on corrupt authority figures, coaxing us to root for crime and the criminal. I'm guessing this is where Furtado was aiming The Man Who Copied. But his band of misfits are not misfits. They donít appear to be enjoying any high-spirited mischief and none of their revenge taste sweet. Furtado tries to transplant a heart into the film where it doesn't belong, and wraps the whole thing up with a pretty ribbon that still fails to justify the suspect morality of the characters and their screenwriter.
There are bits and pieces of a good film here, but under scrutiny, The Man Who Copied never quite feels authentic.
© 2005 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 5/25/05
Man Who Copied, The
Brazil - 2003