The concept of "stunt casting" can appear in some cases to be entirely inspired. On paper, Virados do Avesso seems to be one of them: asking experimental-minded Portuguese auteur Edgar Pêra, last seen playfully exploring digital 3D (first next to Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Greenaway in the omnibus film 3x3D, then on his own with the psychedelic travelogue Lisbon Revisited), to direct an all-out mainstream sex farce top-lined by current Portuguese "it" boy Diogo Morgado, aka "Hot Jesus" from the Bible TV series.

     The end result, sadly, is a misfire, though a rather peculiar one: there's really precious little Mr. Pêra (happily assuming the mantle of a "hack for hire" for one of the co-producers of his best film, O Barão) could do to enliven the bargain-basement sitcom script by TV writers Frederico Pombares and Roberto Pereira, about a gay novelist (Mr. Morgado) in a happy committed relationship who wakes up one day with a bizarre amnesia that has him forget his homosexuality and act as the proverbial man's man. The director deploys his usual bag of visual tricks (fisheye lenses, handheld extreme close-ups, angular, off-key setups) to push a square peg in a round hole and speeds everything up to a frenzy, emphasizing the nonsense aspects of the script to turn it into a psychedelic low-budget screwball comedy.

     For that to work as a fine madness, though, everyone should be on the same wavelength, but in fact Virados do Avesso suggests all involved were aiming at different films: the script is an often tasteless clothesline of laboured punchlines and tired clichés about sexuality; the music score seems to be the non-stop equivalent of an overegged laugh track; the cast (a rag bag mix of character actors, TV stars and pointless celebrity cameos) seems to be all over the place, with only Rui Melo, as the novelist's shifty agent, and Pêra regular Nuno Melo, as his weird brother-in-law, escaping the exaggerated TV histrionics everybody else seems to espouse.

     In fact, that seems to be the issue at the heart of Virados do Avesso: a film that takes all of its clues from TV comedy, and not even good one at that. If even with a talented filmmaker at its helm this is a poor show of a comedy, I shudder to think what a bad one would have done with it.

Portugal 2014
96 minutes
Cast Diogo Morgado, Jorge Corrula, Diana Monteiro, Marina Albuquerque, Nuno Melo, Rui Melo, Philippe Leroux, Miguel Borges, Marco Paiva, Melânia Gomes, Miguel Partidário, Álvaro Faria, Rui Unads, Isabel Medina, Nicolau Breyner, José Wallenstein, Anselmo Ralph, Bárbara Guimarães
Director and editor Edgar Pêra; screenwriters Frederico Pombares and Roberto Pereira; based on a story by Mr. Pombares, Henrique Dias and Mr. Pereira; cinematographer Miguel Sales Lopes (colour); composer José de Castro; designer Joana Gaspar; costumes Sílvia Grabowsky; producer Ana Costa; production companies Cinecool and Cinemate
Screened November 11th 2014, NOS Alvaláxia 3, Lisbon (distributor advance press screening)


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