Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde
There are movies that aren’t good but you still try to find a reason to like them. This was the case for me. There are very few redeeming qualities and instead this movie reads like a giant advertisement for attending carnaval and visiting Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. As someone who has been living out of Brazil for over 10 years this movie hit me with an intense sense of nostalgia that made me miss home and the warmth of the Brazilian people. This is one of the few things I enjoyed and found was transferred in the film successfully.
Plot wise this is an underwhelming endeavor. It tells the story of Nina, a social media influencer, whose influencer boyfriend cheats and dumps her before a couples trip. This misfortune leads to a sponsored trip to Salvador, during carnaval, where Nina requests that her 3 best friends join her. When they arrive they get put up in a shabby hotel while the more popular influencers stay at a fancy all inclusive resort. As the trip progresses Nina hooks up with a popular local musician which sees her follower count rise as her friendships fall apart.
Only when we are about an hour into the movie does it pick up a bit of steam. At this point Carnaval moves away from the influencer plot line, for a few minutes – at least -, and the audience as well as Nina get to see Salvador unfiltered, not through phone screens or social media posts, but through the eyes of a local who knows the city and its history. Here we see capoeira, the traditional cuisine street food acarajé, street vendors, the Lacerda public elevator, which separates the lower city from the upper city, Candomble, and other Afro-Brazilian traditions. When the movie leans into this it does well. But shortly after this reprieve we move back into the hollow plot line that costs Nina her friendships and her dignity.
At the end of the day, this movie does not really know what it wants to be. Is it a friendship drama? Is it an elaborate advertisement campaign? Is it a commentary on influencers and the social media age? By trying to do everything the movie ends up doing nothing. It does not spend enough time developing its characters in any meaningful way. This makes me wonder who this movie was made for? I don’t see an audience for this one especially for those who are unfamiliar with Brazil and its culture. The sights and sounds are infectious but, at the end of the day, by making Carnaval for everyone it ends up being for no one.