Annoyingly artificial without eye-catching stylizations to make it interesting, “The Joy” is an embarrassing attempt by a couple of rising late-twentysomething helmers to capture the anarchic fantasy lives of teens. Felipe Braganca and Marina Meliande try to tap into a youthful absurdism with this confused tale of friends in a turbulent Rio, but the pic feels like the cinematic equivalent of the Sokal Hoax, in which an academic journal was exposed for publishing peer-reviewed gobbledygook disguised as a serious essay; here it’s Cannes that’s been hoodwinked into thinking there’s something genuine about this pseudo arthouse nonsense.
“I’ve decided to be brave and joyful” declares Luiza (Taina Medina), though the only element of joy here comes from snippets of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Luiza’s cousin Joao (Junior Moura) is shot at by snipers and hides in her house while she and her pals make merry in the face of approaching doom. Watching these teens perform is like seeing a palimpsest of all the acting exercises that went on before the cameras started rolling. Camera is slow and moribund — surely the opposite of teen spirit. Pic is associate-produced by Brazilian helmer Karim Ainouz.