The student love triangle gets a flashy makeover in “Os 3,” from Brazilian rookie scribe-helmer Nando Olival. Story of two guys and a gal, whose intimate friendship starts when they simultaneously wiggle their way into a bathroom, slyly comments on auds’ own voyeurism when the threesome have their loft fitted with cameras that record their every move at home. Though not a biting critique of consumerist culture or the reality-TV craze, pic cleverly milks its setup for narrative twists and turns. The mainstream-oriented, Warner Bros. Brazil production will be released locally Nov. 11, and has remake potential.
Olival and cinematographer Ricardo Della Rosa (“The House of Sand,” “Lope”) also produced through their new shingle, Cinema Sports Club. Their background in commercials is felt on a thematic level but especially in the visuals, with their amber-infused, slightly saturated color palette and use of shallow focus. Pop aesthetic is further reinforced by the song choices and sharp cutting.
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Onscreen definitions of friendship, love, passion and lust open the film, and these concepts, as in any threesome tale worth its salt, prove to be elastic and blurry. At a wild house party in Sao Paulo, three university students bond while lining up for the bathroom: cute but occasionally uptight Rafael (Victor Mendes), who thinks himself a writer; pretty Camila (Juliana Schalch), who wants to be an actress; and Caze (Gabriel Godoy), an average Joe who invites them to live with him in a barely converted industrial space. The only house rule for the communication studies undergrads: no kissing and no sex. But here, as elsewhere in the film, Olival and co-scribe Thiago Dottori (“VIPs”) set up a familiar cliche, then subtly subvert it.
The biggest ace up the pic’s sleeve is the friends’ joint graduation project: a proposed Web reality show with an integrated online store that allows viewers to buy whatever the characters onscreen are using or wearing. Guilherme (Rafael Maia), the marketing-savvy grandson of two graying department-store owners (Alceu Nunes, Henrique Taubate), loves their idea and convinces his family to make the project a reality in the trio’s loft.
When the cameras catch some three-way canoodling one drunken night, the show becomes such a hit that Guilherme insists a threesome’s the way to go. Though they initially reject the idea, Raf the writer and Camila the actress finally decide to put their skills to the test, turning the goings-on inside their home into largely scripted fare. This leads to some gently comic material involving Caze, who can’t act, and Raf, who’s not comfortable with being in a relationship with another guy, too — even a fictional one. Third act cleverly piles on the plot twists as the characters’ real emotions crystallize amid their own increasingly vague notions of what’s still real and what’s make-believe.
The three up-and-comers play their roles well and feel all the more real for being appealing rather than impossibly handsome. They’re almost upstaged by vets Nunes and Taubate, who come across as the Brazilian equivalent of Statler and Waldorf.
Olival’s mise-en-scene exploits production designer’s Clos Azevedo’s sets well, using framing and details such as glass and light to play around with ideas of looking and levels of seeing. Thankfully, actual camera footage of the reality show is limited.
Portuguese-language title simply means “Us 3.”