Blame It On Rio


‘…a painfully male film, given to ogling women without any shame, and seeing great providence in behaviour that might be more simply described as lecherous…’

“Kids are survivors’ says Matthew Hollis (Michael Caine) in one of a number of questionable lines from Stanley Donen’s notorious misfire. Sure, kids are tough, but that’s no reason to expect or anticipate that they should put up with whatever else is thrown at them. Taking inspiration from a 1977 French film, which presumably treated the subject matter with a bit more sophistication, Blame It On Rio deals with an older man falling for his friend’s teenage daughter, an edgy subject, even in a Hollywood where leading men in their 60’s are routinely matched with females in their 20’s (I’m thinking As Good As It Gets, but there’s plenty more).

Writer Larry Gelbart was a tv veteran, and after his successful work on Tootsie, Blame It On Rio was much anticipated before release, much reviled afterwards, and it’s easy to see why. This is a low-key farce, but from a very narrow male point of view. Hollis and his friend Victor Lyons (Joseph Bologna) are off for a break in Rio, with their daughters in tow, Jennifer (Michelle Johnson) and Nikki (Demi Moore). The pervasive sexuality and nudity the older men experience seems to cause a loss of moral compass, and soon Hollis is romping in the sand with his friend’s daughter, and disguising his nudity by making himself into a giant sand-castle; you really can’t fault Caine for being game for anything.

Donen’s film twists harder still for laughs; Victor suspects that his daughter is seeing someone, and gets Hollis to help him track the culprit down, little imagining that Hollis is that man he’s searching for. Hollis’s inability to confess stretches out the action without any obvious point; this situation would barely merit a 30 minute sitcom, never mind a feature. At least Valerie Harper from Rhoda seems to be having a good time as Caine’s wronged wife.

This is a painfully male film, given to ogling women without any shame, and seeing great providence in behaviour that might be more simply described as lecherous. And yet Caine does redeem something here that stops the film from being a total hate-watch; like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, he falls for someone outside his age group, and suffers deserved ignominy as a result. Caine’s straight-to-camera confessions at least fit the navel-gazing theme, and while hardly likable, at least Caine follows through on the despicability of the character. Blame It On Rio is probably best remembered for some casual nudity from Johnson and Moore, although Caine’s sky-blue speedos thankfully remain tightly adhered to his physique. We live at a time when some question the need for cinema to reflect diverse values; being trapped amongst the seedy male personas featured here suggests why we need to see more than one POV.


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  1. I, frankly, don’t mind a bit of male fantasy . . . I mean, American Beauty won awards for being not much more than pot smoking Lolita . . . so clearly it’s not entirely about the inappropriate relationship that causes us some cringe and amusement. Woody Allen has long played these kinds of stories for good if unbelievable comic relief so in essence what this film probably lacks is a good sense of self awareness.

    • That’s a fair comment. I was in a minority that hated American Beauty at the time, but I like both film versions of Lolita. I feel that it’s not prudishness on my part, but rather a feeling that even an old man’s fantasy should be more fun than this. The teenagers are as horrible as the older men…no one gets a clean report card here!

      • Not to belittle your hammering of the film, at all, I mean it can still be a poorly done film and cater entirely to as much sympathy on all sides as possible (which would probably be inevitable!), but I like to see some risk taking in terms of both male and female “id”. Sexuality is probably the most important drive in our lives, and as we age, we no doubt make some unfortunate decisions in art and life! 😉 I too didn’t much care for American Beauty, but it was mainly because of the necessity of the violent end and the overly caustic hopelessness of thing. I’ll take Henry Miller’s fantastic bullshit almost any day of the week over most modern expressions of the ultra – confessional. Films like Adventureland, while very entertaining and with a sweet little romance, is deeply marred by the bullshit of that confessional nonsense. Nonya business is all the sweetie needed to tell her brand new friend about a years long and painful one sided romance. Anyway, that’s me! Blah blah blah. 🙂 the best thing about these films is the thinking it makes us do!

        • That’s a refreshing take, and hits a positive spot for me. I’m slamming films which I feel have negative attitudes, but I try and talk up ones which critics might hate, but I think are, for want of a better word, sexy, like Breathless or Immoral Tales. Totally agree that sexuality is something which tends to be neglected when considering what we like about movies. And in this particular case, they are trying to suggest that Rio is a place where some kind of hedonism exists. I just hope the visual representation of my libido is not Joseph Bologna wrestling with Michael Caine in speedos.

        • I just suddenly thought of Claire’s Knee as well . . . a huge sprawling intellectual over-inflated balloon to make seemingly understandable an older man’s passion about a total nymph. It’s not much in the end, but the weakness is dealt with honestly.

          • The French can makes these things work, somehow. But desire is a real thing, and we shouldn’t have to be prudes about it…sticking with The Graduate as a film that leans into the main, male character making a romantic, sexual miscalculation, as most people do at some point…

            • Also with an unusual and lovely older woman aggressor there. I always thought, just like Buck Henry did, that they should have created a cute sequel 30 years later, all the principles were still with us at the time. And it might have been wickedly hilarious.

  2. I found this an awkward mess with Caine the problem rather than the redeeming feature in the sense that he was the reason I went to see it. Had it been anybody else I would have given it a miss, not being partial to movie farces since they rarely work.

    • So this is the problem with the Caine canon. There’s a few real sell-out entries, film that would presumably have been left unmade without him. Unfortunately, mugs like me will always want to see Caine, even if the film is dire. The only good bits of this film are Caine talking to the camera; how this can be Stanley Donen, even at an advanced age, boggles the brain….

  3. If there ever was a movie that would cause me to question whether Caine only starred in good movies, this would be that movie.

    I’ve seen, too many times, where someone uses the authority vested in them by the culture around them to get what they want, and damn the consequences. I’ve also seen the emotional scarring that a lot of young women are left with and they have to deal with that for the rest of their lives.

    You didn’t state explicitly, but I’m guessing this also plays on the “Father as Buffoon” trope and that gets my goat too. I don’t like seeing fatherhood mocked.

    So while it hurts me, really deeply on the inside, right here in my tender little heart, I think I am going to have so say:

    • Please avid this hot mess! I’ve been goaded into being a Caine compleist, but this male stench of this film is utterly rank and it’s only worth seeing as a museum piece…

      • I will avoid! But I like the idea of calling it a museum piece. I’m a completist myself for a few actors, so I understand the compulsion to slog through films I wouldn’t otherwise touch…any anyone with a long career worth remembering has a few misfires.

        • Same here. It’s like an actors career is a soap opera, and I’m here for the bad episodes as well as the good ones. I’m becoming quite facinated by Caine, he has such a varied career of leading man and big support roles, I’m not sure if anyone else living has quite as much work under his belt, Eastwood maybe…

      • I will avoid! But being a completist myself for a few actors, I understand the compulsion to slog through films I wouldn’t otherwise touch. Any actor with a long career worth remembering is going to have a few misfires.

    • Yup, desrves Blerk and Nope, flirted with no award, by Caine is really great in a film that has no other redeeming qualities and plenty of reasons to avoid…

  4. Haven’t seen this since it came out. I remember it not being very good, but I don’t recall being creeped out by it. If I ever go back to watch it today, I’m afraid I may find Caine’s character more sympathetic.

    • It’s not great, even if Caine is terrific. But the notion of grown men blaming teenage girls for seducing them is kind of offensive, and it’s probably best approached as a time capsule of bad attitudes….

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