Música: Review

Música: Review

Música: Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Hot off the presses from the Amazon Prime camp is their delightful coming-of-age musical romcom Música. A semi-autobiographical story from director-writer-producer-lead (what a list!) Rudy Mancuso’s life, we’re immediately greeted with an intertitle declaring, ‘Based on a true story. Unfortunately’. And more fortunately for us, however much of it comes from reality, it’s a fun semi-true story.

Synesthesia takes its origin in the Greek words sún (with) and aísthēsis (sensation), and refers to a condition in which one typical sensation, such as sound, can involuntarily connect to other sensations, such as vision. Notable synesthetes include Hans Zimmer and Beyoncé, who experience chromesthesia, a form of synesthesia that has synesthetes hear colours in sound. In the case of Rudy, the namesake of Mancuso himself, he experiences music through otherwise everyday sounds like footsteps, clinking glasses, and scraping plates.



An aspiring puppeteer and performer, Rudy attempts to navigate love, family, and his uncertain future amidst a world that won’t be quiet. Sat at the booth of a diner, his prissy girlfriend Haley (Francesca Reale) dumps him as she feels that she vies for his constantly wandering attention. Words fall from her lips, but in a sequence somewhat reminiscent of the factory sequence of Lars Von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark, all Rudy can hear are the unmusical ambient sounds surrounding them – sweeping brooms, clacking cutlery, tapping cashiers.

To the average ear, these sounds are almost unnoticeable, simple white noise, but to Rudy, they conduct an inescapable, occasionally discordant symphony. Openly delighted that her son’s ‘gringa’ ex has left him, Maria (Maria Mancuso, Rudy’s real-life mother) wastes no time in unsolicited and unwelcomed matchmaking, determined to ensure Rudy finds himself a Brazilian wife. Her son’s would-be Juliet, Luana (Camila Senna), quickly realises that her match has no interest in a relationship so leaves, much to Maria’s despair.

Rudy’s interests lay primarily in surviving his uninspiring college classes and performing his one-man puppet show at the nearest subway tunnel, typically to sparse-at-best audiences. That is, until his mother sends him to purchase some fish from the neighbourhood fishmongers, and amidst the musically animated store lays his eyes upon the glowing Isabella (Camila Mendes, Mancuso’s real-life partner and co-producer). Making his way through the subway each time, he passes a husky-voiced busker, played by Andy Muschietti, whose cameo is both wholly unexpected and really quite impressive – the man can sing!

With the hilariously self-contradictory advice of his slick-talking mentor, friend, and street food plug Anwar (J.B. Smoove), Rudy presses ahead with what he thinks he wants: a relationship with Isabella. That is, until Haley miraculously u-turns on their breakup. And suddenly, uncertainty returns – to squeamishly uncomfortable results. For a charming little romcom, Mancuso certainly doesn’t refrain from dialling the snowballing stress factor up to eleven.

Undoubtedly thanks in part to their real-life relationship, Mancuso and Mendes’ chemistry leaves a sweet note in every scene they share together. Though in a supporting role this time, Mendes is consistently proving herself to be one of our finest young adult acting talents, and also a great match for Prime’s emerging taste for young adult romcoms.

But fun though their performances are, the true star of Música is its wonderfully unique style – as its name suggests, its música. The sound design of the picture is nothing short of incredible, the clever manipulation of diegetic sounds leading seamlessly into its many musical numbers, a fascinating glimpse into the life of a synesthete provided.

Yet, omnipresent though the music is, it doesn’t become suffocating. We taste a small dose of the world through perceptual overstimulation, but Mancuso opts to fall short of introducing the audience to what sometimes must surely become cacophonous. The soundscape expertly weaves its way between melody, monotony, and dissonance, and does so in a way very few other quasi-musicals do.

A refreshingly original exploration of synesthesia and Brazilian diaspora culture, Música is an amusing and agreeable feature-length debut for quadruple-duty mastermind Mancuso. To present something so personal and indescribable in such a flamboyant manner was quite a risk, but it’s one that paid off. Between the laughs and numbers is a touching story of loneliness and desire; the feeling of isolation in an inarticulate world that only Rudy understands, and the desire for a future that fits around him and doesn’t require sacrificing his true passions.

By Joe Muldoon.


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