Blame It on Rio (1984)

Blame It on Rio (1984), directed by Stanley Donen.

When fathers Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna take their teen girls on vacation to Brazil, Caine has an affair with his friend's daughter. It is supposed to be a romantic comedy.

At the time this must have seemed like a good idea to the people who made it. It is adapted from a French original; there was a lot of that happening back then, maybe trying to import some European sophistication? The sexualization of everything was in full swing and teen boobage in film did not seem outrageous to many. I remember David Hamilton's nude studies of early teen girls being stocked in mainstream bookstores; would that happen today?

(As an aside: I really don't know where we are today. People are supposed to be concerned about the sexualization of children but it seems to go on, sometimes covertly. Look at the comical action picture Kick-Ass (2010). At age 13 Chloƫ Grace Moretz swears like a sailor, commits homicide and lives on her own after being orphaned. If she can do those adult things, what else might she consent to? You see the sub-text, where these people are going).

Anyway: Blame It on Rio wasn't much liked at the time and has seemed like an embarrassment since. Some of the jokes work but most fall flat and it is a clumsy attempt at being risky and provocative. Some of it is not matter for farce: the seducing girl has problems and tries to commit suicide.

Michelle Johnson was 17 and needed special permission from a judge and her parents for her nude scenes. She and Caine cuddle but there aren't any real passion scenes. Maybe Donen recognized that would be going too far, or perhaps Caine's mingled desire and terror is funnier than the satisfaction of their lust.

Demi Moore plays the other daughter and survives the film better than the other actors. She was 22 and has a topless moment on the beach, but her long hair just about covers what is needful. She was less shy (and bustier) later in life. Caine told her she was going to be a star and she said "Bull----".

(Yes, the daughters are topless with their fathers on the beach. Further, when Johnson confides "I used to have a big crush on your father", Moore replies "Me, too". Studies in awkward situations).

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The commentary track is a funny conversation between two critics who (a) admit it is a moral disaster, but (b) are able to feature many interesting aspects.

The things that make us uncomfortable are worth exploring. Why, and what are the limits? Sex farces are always popular; is that wrong? Both art and commerce want to push up against decency boundaries; in some times and places it works, in others not.