LIFE IS A BITCH
**½ (out of ****)
The treatment of the tone and premise of Life Is a Bitch demonstrates such an understanding of how to meld tragedy with comedy that it is almost frightening to consider. Fernando Ceylão’s screenplay concocts a series of bitingly funny scenarios involving neurotic characters. Its actors commit to the delightfully profane dialogue exchanges, which often iterate and reiterate the points of the scheme at the film’s center. Director Julia Rezende employs a style that makes the film feel alive and electric in exciting ways. For an hour, the film casts this spell.
It is curious, then, to consider why the film still does not ultimately come together in a cohesive or satisfying way. There are two reasons, one of which is clear-cut: It ultimately doesn’t have confidence its own conviction to follow through on its promise. Spoiling anything about the experience would be uncalled-for, of course, but let us just say that, after all is said and about to be done, the climax presents the kind of cop-out that calls everything – including the need for the movie itself – into question. Perhaps that is part of the point, with the point being: Look at these pathetic suckers and pity their short-sightedness.
Indeed, they are suckers. Clívia (Fabiula Nascimento), her husband Vladimir (Marcello Valle), Vladimir’s friend Primo (Sílvio Guindane), and the rowdy and rambunctious Regina (Débora Lamm) have a plan to kill a millionaire (to whom they refer as “the Old Man”), partly because they need the money and mostly because it would be an act people would remember. Unprepared for such a task, they take the necessary precautions and make the necessary preparations, acquiring guns from Clívia’s ex-husband and mapping out the Old Man’s schedule and routine.
Inevitably, they underestimate the specifics of such an elaborate scheme, and their lack of estimation comes back in the form of karma by the end (hence, well, the very title of the movie, which almost acts as a direct, if sardonic, admonishment on the filmmakers’ part). In the meantime, we get a solid portrait of each participant’s flimsy existence. All four of these primary actors are good in these roles, though especially the showier two of the male and female pairs (Guindane, whose Primo is prone to casual violence, and Lamm, whose Regina chain smokes with the best of them). But Life Is a Bitch ultimately cannot justify its slide into formula and repetition or the feeling that none of it matters in the slightest.
(Review by Joel Copling)