Contemporary Film Talk: ‘Blame It on Rio’ (1984)

Today we reminisce about

Blame It on Rio (1984)

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Directed by Stanley Donen

Starring: Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna, Valerie Harper, Michelle Johnson, Demi Moore

* Published specifically for The Second Marvellous Michael Caine Blogathon hosted by Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews *

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** This article contains photos with nudity. **

Synopsis

In Brazil, São Paulo is the place where work gets done and Rio de Janeiro is where all the fun happens.

Matthew Hollis (Michael Caine), his wife Karen (Valerie Harper), and co-worker Victor Lyons (Joseph Bologona) decide to take a joint vacation with their respective 17-year-old daughters Nikki (Demi Moore) and Jennifer (Michelle Johnson). Karen notifies Matthew at the last minute that she will be going to Bahia instead of joining them in order to think about the future of their marriage, taking him by complete surprise. Victor, who is going through a messy divorce and who is heavily spiteful towards women, encourages Matthew to take the opportunity and have a good time for himself. They frequent the beaches of Rio where topless bathing and hard bodies are a way of life, further fuelling the temptations of these two 40-something seeming bachelors.

One afternoon while the foursome is driving, the girls are invited by some locals to a wedding reception that is being held on the beach. After Victor gets lucky with a beautiful divorcée, Matthew goes to pick up the girls from the party. Nikki is nowhere to be seen so he gravitates towards Jennifer with whom he starts to dance. They end up joining the other partygoers who decide to go skinny dipping, giving Jennifer the perfect opportunity to express the long-term crush she has had on her “uncle” Matthew.  They end up making love on the beach in a moment of passion although Matthew soon regrets his actions. While Victor has a great relationship with Jennifer, Matthew has a comparably poor one with Nikki who holds a fair amount of animosity towards him. Her discontent is exacerbated when she discovers her father’s secret.

Despite his attraction to Jennifer, Matthew does not want to lead her on and tries at all costs to spurn her continued advances. Completely clueless to the situation is Victor who goes crazy when he finds out that Jennifer has both slept with and been hurt by a mystery man. He vows to find him and seek revenge upon him, all the while accompanied by his understanding best friend, Matthew.

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Michael Caine

Sir Michael delivers a terrific comical performance as Matthew. All of his British mannerisms, including extra dry humour and being uptight, give his character an extra shine and make for even more laughs. He plays the role of a man “in the wrong place, at the wrong time” to the absolute fullest. You can see his character grow throughout the picture as he comes to terms with certain events and by the film’s conclusion, you are bound to like Matthew a whole lot more than you did in the beginning.

Growing up, I was mostly associated with Michael’s more serious roles in Zulu and Alfie as well as the general notion of him playing roles in war- and spy-related films. I was very moved by his turn in The Cider House Rules, a picture which helped reintroduce him to modern audiences as a big box-office draw and show exactly why he was still prominent after so many years in the business. As I watch older and recent interviews with him, I continue to discover what a unique private person he is and I look forward to furthering my knowledge of him as a thespian.

Thoughts

Blame It on Rio is one of those films that I saw at too early of an age but which fascinated me due to its adult nature. As an adolescent, I was curious about how my body would transform so seeing nudity gave me some perspective, helping me feel more comfortable with myself. This film certainly goes beyond the Revenge of the Nerds style humour because it incorporates sentiments and vital life questions into the picture.

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Left to Right: Matthew (Michael Caine), Nikki (Demi Moore), Jennifer (Michelle Johnson), Victor (Joseph Bologna)

Speaking from a female vantage point, it is common to have platonic crushes on older men from a young age. Some of these men can be role models in our lives while others are other personalities like actors or other public figures. For me, my first “love” was over 30 my senior: Tom Selleck aka Thomas Magnum. I was completely enamoured with his dark locks and hairy chest, not to mention that he was a total beefcake. Had we met when I was a young girl and had I expressed my feelings, he would have found it adorable at best. Fast forward a decade to my years as an older teenager. Had we met then and had I expressed my interest in him, would it have been wrong to engage in a more romantic, even sexual, relationship if both parties gave their consent?  Most, if not all, people who watch Blame It on Rio will unconsciously ask themselves this question to help them decide on an opinion about the film.

When it comes to Matthew and Jennifer, my initial reaction to their union was one of ill-ease; a response that lingered on every time I watched the film until I was at least in my late 20s. Their age difference was a tough detail to comprehend but mostly it is their contrast of personalities that makes their pairing less believable. As I matured as a woman, I started to view their relationship differently because I could see Jennifer’s genuine affection for him and started to notice details that made Matthew appear more attractive. Generally, Matthew is quite ornery and distant with pretty much everyone though he does temporarily brighten up thanks to Jennifer’s influence. In fact, it is largely thanks to her that Matthew is convincing as a love interest not to mention more interesting in his scenes with physical comedy. In the end, I preferred the two of them together and felt that Karen (my least favourite character) should have stayed completely out of the picture, especially when we discover what she has been up to in her spare time!

This movie can be seen in different ways: as a comedy, drama, fantasy, romantic-comedy… maybe even all of them combined. One needs to look further than the older man/young woman aspect and focus on the unique story. Although Jennifer is young and someone’s daughter, it does not mean that she cannot make decisions for herself or that she cannot express herself as a sexual creature. It is interesting to note that the age of consent in Brazil is 14 whereas the age of consent in the United States varies from 16-18 years old. (In France is 15 and in the United Kingdom it is 16.) Seeing these numbers can make it more understandable to Westerners that this film is considered less taboo in other places around the world although the question of morality in sleeping with your best friend’s daughter is a completely different debate.tumblr_owwxqqulbq1vawdz8o2_500.pngFilm Origins & Remake of a Remake

The screenplay for Blame It on Rio was adapted from the 1977 French film Un moment d’égarement; the title loosely translated as “briefly losing one’s mind”. Stanley Donen was persuaded to attain the rights to make an American version after seeing the original with his then-wife who was a French national. The film started pre-production in 1982 and was eventually filmed from March to June 1983 on location in Brazil. It would not be released theatrically until February 1984. Though not considered a runaway success, Blame It on Rio made good money but never managed to land the number one position at the box office.

Below: Stanley Donen (far left) giving directions in a scene & pictured with Michael Caine

Critics unanimously slew the picture particularly in regard to the taboo themes, considering them in bad taste all the while damning the well-known cast and crew for having participated in making such garbage. While the film is no Singin’ in the Rain, I find that its denunciatory reception is too harsh because there are many good things about it. Even so, one needs only look as far as the earlier French production to understand the intentions of Blame It on Rio which stayed quite faithful to the original screenplay. The problems are not really related to the film itself but rather to the subject matter being too racy for puritanical audiences.

Un moment d’égarement is a grand timepiece of contemporary French cinema that shows a very different kind of lifestyle to the one we know today in modern France. The film, written and directed by Claude Berri, is set in St. Tropez on the Côte d’Azur in the heart of summer. Jacques and Pierre are best friends and have decided to rent a villa to spend the vacation period with their two 17-year-old daughters, Françoise and Martine. Pierre and Françoise… well, we know where it goes from there! There are some slight differences from this film that were not replicated in Blame It on Rio, such as: Jacques being the one who has troubles with his wife and Pierre being divorced; Pierre being a lot less hesitant to start an affair with Françoise and being much more loving to her in their time together; Pierre’s daughter, Martine, not immediately knowing about their affair and when she does, being very mature and non-judgemental about it; Martine being a lesbian. There is a vaster amount of nudity and innuendo in the French version than in the American one.

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Left to Right: Martine (Christine Dejou), Jacques (Victor Lanoux), Françoise (Agnès Soral), Pierre (Jean-Pierre Mareille)

In 2015, French director Jean-François Richet remade Berri’s film under the same title and with a very similar plot that was updated for present-day. The lead characters’ names were once again changed – this time to Antoine, Laurent, 17-year-old Louna & 18-year-old Marie – and the setting moved to Corsica. Laurent and Louna get friendly with each other at a dance club rather than at a wedding party on the beach although they do end up on the beach where they have their first sexual encounter. Again, there is a lot of nudity in this picture that is more suggestive than in the two predecessors. Marie, Laurent’s daughter, seems much angrier and hostile in this version, practically fuming from her ears when confronting her dad about his illicit liaison. Staying true to the original, this interpretation also has the frequent and uncomfortable sound of mosquitoes and flies flying around, something which was quite noticeable in the first. Contrary to Blame It on Rio, the two French films have a much more ambiguous ending that makes it seem quite possible for the continuation of a May-December romance.

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Left to Right: Marie (Alice Isaaz), Laurent (Vincent Cassel), Louna (Lola Le Lann), Antoine (François Cluzet)

All three films have their own particular merits so it makes it difficult to say if there is one better than the others. I personally enjoyed watching all of them and although the storylines were obviously similar, they all had something a little different to offer. The 1977 version is definitely the most heartfelt of the three and I particularly enjoyed the very frank, realistic discussion that Jacques and Pierre had at the end. As for the 2015 version, it was sometimes very hard to warm up to Vincent Cassel who I felt was slightly miscast in the role of Laurent. Although I like the possibility of Louna being able to pursue their relationship, I would be more at ease knowing that Laurent was sure of his feelings for her as Pierre was for Françoise in the original. If you get a chance to see the French versions, I would highly recommend you watching them.

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Trailers: Blame It on Rio, Un moment d’égarement (1977), Un moment d’égarement (2015)

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15 thoughts on “Contemporary Film Talk: ‘Blame It on Rio’ (1984)

    1. Thank you ever so much for hosting! 🤗
      I actually like this film very much and am really happy that I got to see the French versions, too. In doing my research, I read another person’ s take on the film that basically suggested that all copies of this film should be destroyed. Yikes and very harsh. 😬

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was surprised myself! 😋 It was a lot of fun comparing the three. If only the 1977 film were available either dubbed or subtitled in English so that anglophones could more easily compare the versions.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think maybe, like you, I discovered this film at a similar time – early teens – so it was quite appealing when caught on the late show! (Like “Summer Lovers”? Remember in Greece with Daryl Hannah?) I always remember Demi Moore’s hair strategically hiding her breasts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was always something so appealingly risqué about films with nudity during ones adolescence. 😄 Having an older brother probably had something to do with it!
      I did notice that about Demi and wondered why she was so *shy*. You can see a little more skin in pictures from the film, though. It was very Brooke Shields ‘Blue Lagoon’-inspired.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a joke with me and my buds at the time – Demi with her hair taped to her boobs! Funny, though: Michelle Johnson goes naked in her first film and then drops off the face. Demi plays it coy and extends her career.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL Demi just saved showing her skin for later on. 😉 It is quite strange that Michelle just dropped off the radar though she did have some supporting roles like in ‘Death Becomes Her’. She was also married to a former baseball player for the Arizona Diamondbacks (at the time), so at least had a busy personal life!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. She was in “Death Becomes Her” with Demi’s husband, Bruce?! And yeah, I was reading she was married to Matt Williams, a ball player I used to like.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know the Caine movie was a remake, and I didn’t know there was a second remake!!! Anyhow, I thought the American version was flawed, but amusing. Thanks for the review, you did a great job comparing the the three versions! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Learning about a film’s history is one of the best aspects of these articles. 🙂 Believe it or not, the French versions of these films are not extremely celebrated and the 1977 original had relatively little critical & box office success. Even relatively open-minded French people had some trouble with the aspects of this story. I’m glad that you liked my entry and thank you so much for your kind words! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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