A coming-of-age love story that follows an aspiring creator with synesthesia, who must come to terms with an uncertain future, while navigating the pressures of love, family, and his Brazilian culture in Newark, New Jersey.

Chuck says:

I’d be hard-pressed to think of a recent movie with more energy and innovation than Rudy Mancuso’s “Musica,” a delightful musical that charts the struggles of a young man who hears the world around him in a much different way than you and I. Over its brisk 90-minute running time, a standard rom-com is transformed into a delightful journey in which we witness our hero discover how to use his unusual gift to change his life while impacting others along the way.

Mancuso, who not only directs but co-wrote and stars in the film is, Rudy. That he uses his own name as the character is no accident as we are told early on that “This is based on a true story…unfortunately.” A sense of ironic humor runs throughout, as one pitfall after another thwarts Rudy’s plans, which are nebulous at best. His relationship with Haley (Francesca Reale), who he’s been dating for four years, is stalled and he shows no enthusiasm towards his studies, about to complete a business degree he has no use for. His only means of income is working as a busker in the New York Subway, employing a puppet to sing very funny and but very short songs. The dollars are few that are thrown his way.

A blessing and a curse, the world for Rudy is one replete with songs. In the middle of a conversation or simply walking down the street, his attention drifts, his mind wanders, and his ear becomes attuned to sound combinations the rest of us are deaf to.  In a diner, amid the cacophony of a floor being swept, metal spatulas being scrapped on a steal grill and the ringing of a bell to signal orders are ready, he hears music. Whether in a park, at a bar, or in a store, melody surrounds him, tunes that only he can hear bombard him throughout the day.

The viewer is privy to this as well, what with elaborate song-and-dance sequences breaking out wherever Rudy might be. Footsteps, paper rustling and page turning prompt a routine on a bus, girls jumping rope, basketballs being dribbled, and birds chirping are the basis for a breakdown in a park, while the goings-on in a hospital, hair salon and fish store provide the organic sounds necessary for still more symphonies in Rudy’s head. These set pieces are inventively staged and executed with a vigor that proves infectious and engaging, complimented with an aggressive editing style that accentuates the rhythm of the songs.

Unfortunately, these constant distractions mean he’s not always fully engaged with Haley, who has tired of his seeming lack of attention. Fortunately, Rudy’s path crosses that of Isabella (Camila Mendes) in a meet-cute involving an errant flounder that conks him in the head. (It makes sense when you see it.) It comes as no surprise that she comes to appreciate his gift but the chemistry between the two leads helps the viewer accept the predictability of what ensues between them.

The always-reliable J.B. Smoove is on hand to bolster the humor as Anwar, a food-truck owner whose dress and appearance change to cater to whatever ethnic neighborhood he’s in, while Mancuso’s mother Maria plays, you guessed it, Rudy’s mother, constantly nagging while dispensing wisdom, love, and support as only a Brazilian mother can.

The energy in the musical scenes propel the film but its Mancuso’s charm that provides the heart and soul of the picture. We sympathize with his plight, hoping he can find his way and when his less-than-successful puppet routine proves to be the instrument he uses to achieve success, you can’t help but smile. Charming, hopeful, and winning “Musica” is an impressive feature film calling card for Mancuso, an obvious talent with a bright future. While not necessarily a fan of the genre, I’m eager to see just what other sorts of musical concoctions are humming about in his head.

3 1/2 Stars

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