Reaching for the Moon // Brazillian Movie Review

Welcome to Queer Fudanshi! Let’s Talk! Today, we’re going to be talking about the movie Reaching for the Moon.

Reaching for the Moon, or Flores Raras in Portuguese, is based off of a true story. The 2013 film is about Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop who one day decides to visit Brazil and her college friend Mary. It’s there that she finds herself blossoming under the watchful eye of the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. The film is set largely in Petrópolis between the years 1951 and 1967, and depicts the three’s passionate love triangle.

My Thoughts Before Watching

I’ve been wanting to review another movie, but this time I wanted it to be slightly different. This time, I wanted a foreign film that wasn’t Asian. There are so many different kinds of Queer people in this world, and I want to make sure they’re all represented on this blog. So I searched and I searched and I came across Reaching for the Moon which is from Brazil. I feel like this is perfect timing since the Rio Olympics happening, so I decided to watch the film.

I think this movie will be interesting. I’m hoping to actually feel absorbed in the culture. One thing I like about reviewing foreign media such as Make it Right or Part Time is that it helps me understand the country in question more. I hope the same thing will happen with this movie.

This is Reaching for the Moon.

Reaching for the Moon Title

Where to Watch:

Netflix*

*Netflix is a pay-for-subscription site. If you do not have an account, consider getting one or finding a friend who does.

Where to Buy:

Amazon

The Talk (Spoilers Ahead):

Elizabeth

Dancing Drunk Elizabeth

After 10 mins I knew that loved Elizabeth. She is a fleshed out character. She’s flawed, lively, flirtatious, and guarded. She’s an alcoholic, a writer, a lesbian who proudly expresses her sexuality (when she can). She speaks so eloquently and acts stoically when uncomfortable. Then, when she’s in her element she as beautiful as a blossoming flower. This is a protagonist I can get behind.

To add to the contradiction that is her, she can be so mature and flawed, yet she is also so immensely naive. For instance, the starter dinner scene when she was asked about Rio and said it was like Mexico City. I’ve never been to Rio, but even I know that would be a dumb thing to say. Throughout the movie I was just amazed at how naive she could be.

It was interesting to see such a character be so all over the place. One second she’s winning the Pulizer and the next she drunk and sleeping in a bath tub. There is no doubting that Elizabeth was my favorite character in this movie.

Mary Morse

Jealous Mary

What’s unfortunate is that all of the summaries I could find about this movie left out Mary. This character is just as important to the story as the other two. I think of it more as a three person relationship than just two.

I was at first worried that Mary would be the other woman. The angry ex character that I’ve grown tired of seeing. Luckily, she became more than that. While yes, she did have the qualities of that character type, she also had her own dreams and goals. She wanted to be a mother, she was spiteful and haughty, yet kind when needed. She was her own person.

Also, Tracy Middendorf played the character and specifically the confrontation scene very well. I totally emphasized with Mary Morse throughout the movie. As the movie went on I was pleased to realize that I was fully on her side… until she threw the letter out of course.

Reaching for the Moon Love Triangle

Just imagine me on the couch.

Lota de Macedo Soares

Friendship Before Love - Lito

And then there is Lota. Oddly, I can’t say that Lota is my favorite character, yet I respect her the most. Whereas Elizabeth is fun to watch because she is so all over the place, Lota is kind of a bore because she is so stable. She knows who she is and she knows what she wants. I respect that, but at the same time she doesn’t keep my attention as a viewer.

That said, what is interesting about her is seeing how she weaves her way between these two women. Perhaps she is the one who should have become a poet as it’s obvious she has a way with words. Her manipulation of these two women was near flawless for the entire movie. She was able to keep both of them and for the most part keep them both wanting more of her.

I will say though that the three did find a way to make it all work. They were mature in their actions and in their arrangement. Each one of them wanted something and they found that sticking together helped them get it. I think it’s Lota’s influence that inspired that.

The Tech Stuff

Lota, Elizabeth, Mary and company

In addition, I have to talk about the technical aspects of the movie.

The design behind the appearances of the women was very well done. The makeup/editing aged them throughout the years to the point that I understood that time was going by. The movie never specified what year it was, but the clothing they wore, the bags their faces held, the changing of the sets all indicated as much. That’s good directing and good desgin work in my opinion.

In addition, the camerawork was nice in this film. There were so many beautiful scenes and shots that I just didn’t know which ones to take and which ones not to.

Brazil

Reaching for the Moon Copacabana

As I stated before, I wanted to get a feel for Brazilian culture and I feel like I did and I didn’t. I do feel like I got a brief glimpse into Brazil. I especially feel like I got a look into its history with the governor, the military coup, and all. But at the same time, it was just brief. Part of that is because this is only a movie. With the Thailand shows they are long series with multiple episodes, so I had time to really dive into the culture.

In addition, Elizabeth and Mary present a problem as well. I remember watching a video, which I believe is this one with actress/playwright Danai Gurira, where someone spoke about having a white man in a otherwise foreign story. (Paraphrase) “By putting a white man in a story people will generally focus on the white man.” The same could be said for Elizabeth and Mary.

By having these two women as the focus of the story, Brazil becomes the backdrop. While yes, this is a true story so what can you do, I still feel like Brazil got the short end of the stick. Of course Brazil isn’t the point of the story, but looking back at the Thailand shows I got to know more about them through being immersed in the local story and learning as I went. Those shows weren’t about Thailand, but I still learned about the country and culture. Reaching for the Moon didn’t teach me much.

In Conclusion

Elizabeth Bishop Gawking

This was a beautiful movie. It told the story of three women entangled in love, hate, artistic passion, and desire. The actresses all acted their parts well and virtually everything about this movie merged into an enjoyable film.

While I don’t love the film, I definitely enjoyed it. Perhaps the thing that I did love though were the three characters and their interaction with one another. They really made this film in my opinion.

My rating for Reaching for the Moon is 4 stars out of 5. And a QF Star. What’s Yours?