“Airplane Mode” is a shiny little rom-com bauble from Brazil that strains and strains to find a laugh.
It’s about cell phone addicts, “influencers,” fashion, family and finding love where the pace of life is a lot slower than in the big city. So it’s an incredibly old-fashioned comedy dolled up in “this year’s fashion” accessories.
Larissa Manoela is Ana, who lives at home. Her life is a life-streamed/selfie-packed Instagrammed blur of fashion, makeup, staged events and staged romance.
She seems to live at home because who has the time to move?
“True Fashion” is her ethos and True Fashion is her Sao Paolo employer, a youthful clothing company ruthlessly run by Carola (Katiuscia Canoro), who has Ana under contract for a reason. She’s insanely popular on the web, and what she wears EVERYbody must wear.
Sure, Ana studied clothing design in school, but who has time to MAKE when just “showing” what others have made, and gushing over it in vlog posts, is so much easier?
She’s paired up, romantically, with a stylish and stylishly flaming designer — just to get the page-views. If a “break-up” is good for business, that can be staged, too.
But Ana’s phone is her undoing. How many wrecks can she have in one month? Her parents know about eight, from the DMV. That isn’t counting the one she has the morning we meet her, or the Fiat-flipping fiasco that ends her day.
“Court ordered” loss of license, and removal of her cell phone is all there is for it. And sending her off to her estranged grandfather’s house in the “no cell reception” hinterlands is just a way to remove temptation from her reach.
The country is where car-restorer, widowed Grandpa Germano (Erasmo Carlos) can teach her to wrench, to “make” instead of “show.” It’s where “hick” baker João, played by André Luiz Frambach, can show her the joys of being “geniune” — the simple pleasures of a country fair.
All of this sentimental crap is straight out of the 1940s, and the only people who buy into it — in Brazil, Britain or the U.S. — are old folks and those “left behind,” trapped in the villages and small towns everybody else has fled. As if the country is the only place you can “know yourself,” as Ana claims.
Nonsense, says the villainous Carola. “Oh sweetie, knowing yourself is the first step to self-loathing!” (In Portuguese, with English subtitles, unless you switch to the “dubbed into English” mode.)
That’s it, the only funny line in the entire movie. There’s a cute twist in the third act, and an utterly predictable “betrayal” or two, and “getting even” scheme.
Every action, event and character in the movie could be predicted by a tween who has seen more than four movies in her life. It’s “obvio,” as they say in Brazil.
Entirely too “obvious” to ever be funny.
Manoela is cute and perky and probably web-friendly. But as Ana learns in “Airplane Mode,” honey — that’s just not enough.
MPAA Rating: TV-PG
Cast: Larissa Manoela, Erasmo Carlos, André Luiz Frambach, Katiuscia Canoro
Credits: Directed by César Rodrigues, script by Alberto Bremer and Alice Name Bomtempo. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:35