UK Release Date: 15th December 2017
Runtime: 114 minutes
Director: Daniel Rezende
Writer: Luiz Bolognesi
Starring: Vladimir Brichta, Cauã Martins, Leandra Leal, Soren Hellerup, Emanuelle Araújo
Synopsis: A soft porn actor in the midst of a career slump gets the opportunity to play the leading role in a live TV clown show, on the condition he keeps his identity a secret.
The unconditional box office dominance of Star Wars has given rise to some very interesting counter-programming. There was chilly British thriller The Unseen, generation-spanning drama Mountains May Depart and now we have Bingo: The King of the Mornings. It’s an unusual drama about the cult of celebrity that is Brazil’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film prize at the Oscars, focusing on an actor who manages to score a prime role as the clown at the centre of a live, daily show for kids. Naturally, this guy isn’t as squeaky clean backstage as he is when the cameras are rolling.
Vladimir Brichta is interesting in an abrasive, arrogant turn as Augusto Mendes, whom we meet as he bares all for a sex scene in a dreadful soft porn movie. It soon becomes clear he’s a box office draw in these niche films, but broad appeal has eluded him and he’s desperate to make something his young son Gabriel (Cauã Martins) can actually watch. He stumbles upon an audition with a big shot American producer (Soren Hellerup) and hungry young director Lúcia (Leandra Leal) for the part of Bingo – the clown at the centre of a morning show which is heading to Brazil after Stateside success.
Things start with a real sense of intrigue in Bingo as Brichta’s confident, but unsuccessful actor decides on a whim to audition for the clown part, winning it with a vicious exploitation of the American producer’s ignorance of Portuguese. The initial scenes of Augusto’s attempts to bring his own originality to the producer’s wooden script are compelling and his initial spirals into strip clubs and hard drug use are an entertaining contrast to his family-friendly public image.
Brichta finds his counterpoint in Leandra Leal’s defiantly Christian director, who is prepared to tolerate Augusto’s hard partying while his improvisation is sending the show’s ratings soaring through the roof. His attempts to woo her as part of a sleazy bet work less well, given the fact their romance is given very little room to breathe and develop by the script. The second half of the movie weaves listlessly through Augusto’s fall from grace, switching the focus from the compelling alienation plot around his son to endless scenes of him consuming more cocaine than Tony Montana at a New Year’s Eve party.
Bingo really does lose its way at the halfway point and forgets all of the interesting groundwork it laid early on about the notion of a darker figure using his edge to make a children’s show more entertaining. There’s no amount of Brichta’s lecherous charm that could make the final half an hour work, with its slow-motion scenes of drinking and a finale so muddled it doesn’t even come close to mimicking the entertainment value of what came before it.
Pop or Poop?
Pennywise is definitely still 2017’s most compelling cinema clown because, despite a solid central performance and some interesting early storytelling, Bingo: The King of the Mornings is a misfire. The notion of delving into the darker side of clowning is a good one, but a dull third act and under-developed supporting characters leaves the audience wanting more than a gurning face.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.