Bingo: The King of the Mornings (3 stars)

Bingo: The King of the Mornings

Brazilian drama made and performed with vigour but whose sympathetic skew leaves a sour taste

The Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning editor Daniel Rezende (City of God) makes his directorial debut with a semi-biographical, 80s-set film that documents the rise and fall of a Brazilian kids' TV presenter in an explosion of colour, irreverence and excess. Inspired by the life of Arlindo Barreto, who played Bozo the Clown on morning television, this is the Brazilian entry for the 2018 Academy Awards.

With his entitlement to the spotlight fostered by an adored soap star mother, Augusto Mendes (Vladimir Brichta) moves from the indignity of porn and bit parts to a weirdly anonymous brand of stardom playing the titular clown. It's a role he nevertheless makes his own during the daunting live shows, in which he tangles with screaming kids often unwilling to play ball.

His improvisational, transgressive approach to the buffoonery horrifies the show's solemn, God-fearing director Lúcia (Leandra Leal) yet she can't deny the results. As Augusto pushes kids' TV in a salacious, albeit wildly successful, direction, the actor's onscreen energy is both mirrored and fuelled by his backstage hedonism, while his relationship with his young son Gabriel (Cauã Martins) suffers.

The behind the scenes look at a seldom scrutinised industry (at least in a cinematic sense) is fascinating and rings scarily true, and the film's exuberant, sometimes audacious visual style often fits the material. It's no surprise, but is suitably disconcerting, to see the mania of kids' TV linked with the grip of substance addiction – frankly, how could you not be on drugs?

Brichta gives a vigorous performance in the lead, even if Augusto remains an obnoxious ass, while his aggressive and disrespectful pursuit of Lúcia is skin-crawling. In an age of disgraced children's entertainers and with sexual harassment in the world of film and TV at the top of the agenda, Bingo feels pertinent but its predominant revelry in its protagonist's antics ultimately leaves a sour taste. If it's told with skill and chutzpah then a film that sides with and seeks to (hastily) redeem a sleazebag feels an uneasy fit for our time, and even anti-heroes need to have a certain amount of charm.

Selected release from Fri 15 Dec.

Bingo: The King of the Mornings

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • Brazil
  • 1h 54min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Daniel Rezende
  • Cast: Vladimir Brichta, Leandra Leal,
  • UK release: 15 December 2017

Augusto (Brichta) is an actor who goes from porn and bit parts to playing the titular morning show TV clown, where his improvisational, transgressive approach horrifies his solemn director (Leal) but gets results. It’s fascinating and rings true (inspired by a true story), but Augusto is an obnoxious, charmless ass whose…