“Cousins” is a hamfisted and campy gay romance from Brazil, the sort of gay rom-com North American indie cinema moved on from decades ago.
The broad characters, the eye–rollingly obvious come-ons may produce a few laughs…in between the groans. And moans.
Lucas (Paulo Sousa) is a shy, orphaned lad who has been living with his devoutly religious aunt (Juliana Zancanaro), practicing his music, switching his Yamaha keyboard into organ mode to serenade her friends at the end of their weekly Bible study.
Those friends wonder about Lucas, who is handsome and talented, but seems to have no friends or prospects for friends.
Then Aunt Lourdes gives him news straight out of a gay porn comedy. There’s this handsome cousin that Lucas has never met. He’s coming to stay with them. He’s just been kicked out of his parents’ house, thanks to a short stretch in jail.
“I don’t want to know what he did,” Auntie says (in Portugeuse with English subtitles). We practice unconditional “forgiveness in this house.”
They’re a little pressed for space. Mind sharing a room with him?
Oh, and one other thing, Aunt Lourdes will be away on a Catholic retreat when “Mario” arrives.
Mario, played by writer and co-director Thiago Cazado, has a swagger and a cigarette when we meet him. He hugs a little too hard, “for all those years we have not hugged!” He’s amusingly eager to walk about with no trousers, making this a “bulging underwear comedy.”
He’s full of stories about the sorts of “games” cousins play, suggestions that “we push our beds together” because “I’m afraid of ghoosts.
Yeah it’s like that.
A little piano serenade, a little air guitar rocking out, a little alcohol and then it’s naked time, sex scenes set to insipid English language pop.
All the while, Lucas is fending off Bible study Julia (Duda Esteves), a coming-on-strong beauty who seeks piano lessons, even though her screeching shows her to be tone-deaf, and whose ditzy flirtation means every lesson end with her bouncing on the lad’s lap.
Give “Cousins” a couple of points for attempts at “cute.” That hugging line made me laugh, and the fact that even the devout in the household curse like sailors, turning to apologize to the nearest crucifix (they’re everywhere), is worth a grin.
Poor Esteves has to vamp through a character so broad you’d swear she was created in the 1940s, and performed by somebody yanked from a community theater stage in mid-mugging.
“Cousins” may be a cinematic novelty in Brazil, but aside from the nudity (more or less tastefully handled), there’s little novel or entertaining for film audiences this far north, just titillation.
MPAA Rating: Unrated, with nudity, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Thiago Cazado, Paulo Sousa, Duda Esteves, Juliana Zancanaro
Credits: Directed by Mauro Carvalho and Thiago Cazado, script by Thiago Cazado. A TLA release.
Running time: 1:22