Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
“You’re so stubborn!” a woman yells tearfully at her 65-year-old mother, Clara, the central figure of “Aquarius.” “You’re like an old lady and a child!”
Writer/director Kleber Mendonca Filho recognizes the inherent contradiction that defines Clara, and rather than similarly condemning her, he embraces her in all her thrilling, maddening complexity. In return, he draws a performance from Sonia Braga that’s a crowning achievement in her venerable career—a piece of film acting that’s subtle and stirring in equal measure.
Braga has created a formidable force of nature in Clara: a woman who’s lived a life and loved and lost, but who still leaps at the opportunity to experience the world with real zest and curiosity. So many movies reduce older characters to a series of wacky or awkward moments: Viagra jokes, early-bird dinners, bafflement over social media, that sort of thing. Clara, a retired music critic and the widowed mother of three grown children, balances the wisdom of age with a fervor for staying current, and it’s such a cool and refreshing change.
She is effortlessly chic, radiantly beautiful—and, as her pragmatic daughter (Maeve Jinkings) points out, stubborn. Elegantly, brilliantly so, but still. Clara can be rebellious. She can be difficult. She can be more than a little passive-aggressive in the face of conflict. But “Aquarius” never judges her for that strong-willed streak; rather, it allows Braga to reveal so much with just a withering glance or a throaty laugh.