Turning to a much more rewarding realm of deadpan dark comedy after his erratic 2004 "Nina," rising Brazilian helmer Heitor Dhalia succeeds with the risky "Drained." Obsessively concerned with a pawnshop owner convinced the nasty odor from his bathroom plumbing is affecting his mind, Dhalia's adaptation of Lourenco Mutarelli's novel is an acidic, scatological piece of theater of the absurd that will draw strong critical support and a considerable cult following in Latin American, European, Asian and select North American venues.
Turning to a muchmore rewarding realm of deadpan dark comedy after his erratic 2004 “Nina,” rising Brazilian helmer Heitor Dhalia succeeds with the risky “Drained.” Obsessively concerned with a pawnshop owner convinced the nasty odor from his bathroom plumbing is affecting his mind, Dhalia’s adaptation of Lourenco Mutarelli’s novel is an acidic, scatological piece of theater of the absurd that will draw strong critical support and a considerable cult following in Latin American, European, Asian and select North American venues.
Critics have already begun to weigh in, starting with a Fipresci prize at Rio in advance of the pic’s North American preem at Sundance. To be sure, though, while men will be drawn into a comedy that willfully exposes some of the nastier aspects of their gender, most women may turn away in disgust. Vive la difference.
Bearded, bespectacled Lourenco (Selton Mello) appears to be an intellectual, with a taste for noirish Los Angeles authors James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler. But behind the desk of his sprawling pawnshop warehouse, he becomes a heartless entrepreneur who regularly rejects customers’ items.
More crucially, he grows obsessed with the well-shaped rear end of a local waitress (Paula Braun), whose endowment fills the screen over opening credits. Dhalia’ presence forces the viewer to listen to Lourenco’s misogynist and misanthropic views of the human race, while subtly undermining his beliefs in every scene.
A stench from his office bathroom grows worse with each day, as does his temper. Lourenco’s passive-aggressive approach — he tells his fiancee (Fabiana Gugli) not only that he wants to cancel their wedding, but that he has never really liked her — tends to send those around him into fits of rage.
Dhalia and Marcal Aquino’s script allows Lourenco to address the viewer in brief voiceovers that don’t so much explain his plainly antisocial behavior as delve into it. At one point, he ponders that “the smell of the drain” (pic’s Portuguese title) is from Hell itself, and perhaps even a direct message from his dead father.
With Mello, Dhalia has a central performance mixing vulnerability and mischief that keeps the film centered and never less than engaging. An actor who likes to keep his cards close to his vest, then startle with a sudden touch or stroke of behavior, Mello convinces that the film wouldn’t be possible without him.
Braun is a sweet, sincere object of desire whom the pic considers more fully than Lourenco does himself. Casting director Chico Accioly has assembled a wonderfully diverse ensemble of pawnshop customers, with choice moments for Gugli, Mutarelli, Silvia Lourenco and Martha Meola.
Pic boasts a terrific production package, including sharp brown-tinted lensing by Jose Roberto Eliezer, detailed production design by Guta Carvalho, casual music from group Apollo 9 and spunky editing care of Jair Peres and Pedro Becker.