Netflixable? Brazilian “Rich in Love” should have bought a better plot

Today’s Around the World with Netflix presentation lets us know that rich, womanizing douche-bros in Brazil are every bit as contemptible as anywhere else.

But with the title “Rich in Love (Ricos de Amor),” you have to know that the heel, the scion of a tomato empire, is redeemable.

That’s the story here, a born-rich party boy from Paty de Alferes dabbles in switching identities with the son of a servant and takes his stab at winning a job he’d be handed on a silver platter under his own name. And maybe he’ll win a love who won’t be after him for his money if she thinks he’s charming and poor.

Deep. And here and there, almost cute.

Danilo Mesquita plays Teto, heir to the Trancoso Tomato products empire run by his widowed dad (veteran character actor Ernani Moraes). The kid’s lazy, selfish and spoiled, and he’s pretty much bedded every young woman in town.

If it wasn’t for Igor (Jaffar Bambirra) he wouldn’t have any real friends. But Igor’s the housekeeper’s son, one hoping to get to college so that he can make something of himself. Fat chance with Teto taking up all his time, making Igor drive home any woman who wakes up in his bed and winning all these “bets” that somehow one suspects Igor has to let the rich kid win.

“You need to grow up, Teto,” (in Portuguese, with English subtitles, or dubbed) is the general consensus.

A bet is how Igor is forced to tag along as rich boy picks out the Land Rover convertible he wants for his birthday. Igor isn’t even on “the list” for Teto’s lavish Tomato Festival birthday party, which shames rich dude enough to switch IDs with “my brother” Igor for the night.

That “tomato prince” ID does a little for Igor. But passing himself off as Igor gets complicated for the real “prince” Teto when he meets the lovely med school student Paula (Giovanna Lancellotti) from Rio, in town for a bachelorette weekend.

Gosh, our two “small town party guys” have to go to Rio, under their switched identities, so that Teto can continue his pursuit. Igor? He can enroll, with Teto, in the company’s new young executive recruiting program, where nobody knows what the boss’s son looks like, save for the smart and sharp young exec Monique (Lellê) who was laid off to create the upcoming opening Teto has been groomed for.

The comedy’s candy-colored/tomato-pasted facade covers a half-hearted effort to jam some social commentary in here. Monique lives in the favela, the “dangerous” poor neighborhoods high on the hillside. Teto will need her help “winning” the job since he’s posing as Igor, “a regular guy” with no special name and privilege.

It makes little sense that Monique would help, but she is “moved by your rich boy problems” and does.

Another slice of searing social commentary is Paula’s struggle to land the only residency at the hospital where she’s been studying. She is the sharpest intern in the class, but damned if her supervising physician (Caio Paduan) isn’t all over her. Her good looks are her ticket to harassment.

Igor also finds himself targeted by his fetching internship supervisor, Alana (Fernanda Paes Leme), who kisses up to the boss’s son, and who doesn’t want to stop at kissing.

“Rich in Love” is just a series of limp mistaken identity mixups and even lamer protect-that-mistaken-identity gags. There’s barely a laugh in this, and even the “sweet” moments play as patronizing, boons granted by the rich to the lesser folk.

The script shortchanges Igor’s agenda so much that I couldn’t figure out, at times, why he was going along with any of them.

Frankly, I think they could a lot more with the whole tomatoes thing.

The cast is uniformly sexy, but the romances presented don’t spark, mostly owing to how unnatural and artificial they feel. At the end of any rom-com, you like to think “she belongs with him/he belongs with her,” and here that just isn’t true.

Plot complications are painted over to such a degree

Rating: TV-14, drinking and drugging and hooking up

Cast: Danilo Mesquita, Giovanna Lancellotti, Jaffar Bambirra, Ernani Moraes, Fernanda Paes Leme, Caio Paduan and Lellê

Credits: Directed by Bruno Garotti, scripted by Júlio Uchoa. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:46

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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