Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Watch: First Trailer For 'The Age Of Adaline' Starring Blake Lively, Ellen Burstyn And Harrison Ford Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Listen Up, Christopher Nolan Defends Sound Mix On 'Interstellar' Official Soundtrack Details For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Revealed Official Soundtrack Details For Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' Revealed Casting: Shailene Woodley Joins Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden Pic, 'True Detective' Adds Pair & More Casting: Shailene Woodley Joins Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden Pic, 'True Detective' Adds Pair & More Rare Pics Of James Remar In James Cameron's 'Aliens' Before He Was Fired Rare Pics Of James Remar In James Cameron's 'Aliens' Before He Was Fired Watch: 40-Minute Discovery Channel Special 'The Science Of Interstellar' Narrated By Matthew McConaughey Watch: 40-Minute Discovery Channel Special 'The Science Of Interstellar' Narrated By Matthew McConaughey 'X-Men: Apocalypse' To Focus On Romance Between Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique & Michael Fassbender's Magneto 'X-Men: Apocalypse' To Focus On Romance Between Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique & Michael Fassbender's Magneto 20 Comic Actors And Their Best Dramatic Roles 20 Comic Actors And Their Best Dramatic Roles Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' Starring Jim Carrey And Jeff Daniels Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' Starring Jim Carrey And Jeff Daniels Listen: 45-Minute Talk With Christopher Nolan, Plus The Big Twist From Steven Spielberg's 'Interstellar' Script And More Listen: 45-Minute Talk With Christopher Nolan, Plus The Big Twist From Steven Spielberg's 'Interstellar' Script And More Joaquin Phoenix Says 'Iron Man' Was "Fantastic," Sidesteps 'Doctor Strange' Rumors Joaquin Phoenix Says 'Iron Man' Was "Fantastic," Sidesteps 'Doctor Strange' Rumors Quentin Tarantino Plans To Retire After His Tenth Film, Hopes 'Hateful Eight' Will "Stop The Momentum" Of Digital Quentin Tarantino Plans To Retire After His Tenth Film, Hopes 'Hateful Eight' Will "Stop The Momentum" Of Digital 70mm? IMAX? DCP? How Format Affected Our Theatrical Experiences With Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' 70mm? IMAX? DCP? How Format Affected Our Theatrical Experiences With Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More Review: Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway & More 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' Will Conclude With A 45-Minute Battle Sequence Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Cannes Review: Brazilian Pic 'Hard Labor' Finds Real Horror In The Job Market

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist May 13, 2011 at 3:25AM

For their first feature, the directing team of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra certainly made a reach for the brass ring. A horror film (of sorts) structured around an observation of the economic realities and class systems of Brazil, "Hard Labor" is an ambitious blend of genres that unfortunately is so concerned with teasing and eventually unveiling it's big last act twist, that the rest of the film is a tiring waiting game.
1


For their first feature, the directing team of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra certainly made a reach for the brass ring. A horror film (of sorts) structured around an observation of the economic realities and class systems of Brazil, "Hard Labor" is an ambitious blend of genres that unfortunately is so concerned with teasing and eventually unveiling it's big last act twist, that the rest of the film is a tiring waiting game.

When the film opens we get a dose of good news/bad news. For the former, Helena (Helena Albergaria) has found the perfect space to open up a grocery store and decides to make the financial leap to do so. But it appears the timing couldn't be worse as her husband Otavio (Marat Descartes) has just lost his job at an insurance company after ten years. Regardless, Helena plows ahead, hiring maid/nanny Paula (Naloana Lima) to look after the house and their child Vanessa (Marina Flores) and gets started sorting out her store.

But it's not all as simple as that. Otavio is devastated and emasculated being unemployed. As his mother-in-law notes to Helena, getting a new job at his age (early 40s?) is not easy and Otavio mopes around the house, sleeping late, staying in the same clothes, not showering. He's in a bit of a funk. Meanwhile, Helena is having problems of her own at the store. Eerie things start happening. At first she thinks nothing of the sewage leak but one evening, when she's there alone, there is definitely a presence of some kind haunting or inhabiting the place. At night, a dog stands outside the store snarling and growling. And that's not it.

Eventually, Helena brings Otavio in on what's going on and they make a couple of discoveries -- which we won't spoil -- but seem to point at the space being previously inhabited by something real but completely otherworldy. But it's at this point the film begins to stumble a bit. The discoveries they make are in the storage area of the grocery store and considering when we first see the space it's nearly entirely empty, it's hard to believe at no point no one said "Hey, what's that?" or "What's on the end of this random chain that's attached to the wall?" But Rojas and Dutra are so committed to their story they forgive leaps in logic.

They also forgive the film's leaden pacing. Prior to "Hard Labor," the directing duo made a splash with their short films and in many ways, their feature feels like an idea for a smaller film stretched and stretched out to full length version. Given to longer than usual takes and strangely mannered performances by the cast, as a horror film it never feels quite real enough to be scary and as a comment on the reality of the job market in Brazil it's too stiff to connect. The directors don't hesitate to underline the hierarchy between employer/employee and middle class/lower class that still very much exists but after pointing it out, they don't do much with it. The quiet revolution enacted by Paula who is increasingly treated with little respect isn't disappointingly muted, while Otavio's true feelings about finding a part time, commission sales job remain mysterious. It's as if that's all in the way of the directors finally getting to just what is going on at that grocery store and when it's finally all connected, the finale is a relief that is both fantastic and mostly ridiculous.

"Hard Labor" is essentially two different kinds of movies -- each with strong elements -- that have been combined into a weakened whole. Rojas and Dutra should certainly be commended for at least taking a swing and if anything, it establishes them as directors to watch because given a better script we could see them directing the shit out of it. They have a very keen sense of what makes fantasy and horror work and stage many of the sequences quite wonderfully. But outside of their comfort zone the results are less convincing and half of the time "Hard Labor" isn't worth the work. [C]

This article is related to: Foreign Films, Review, Foreign Directors, Hard Labor, Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates