I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be an actor on a successful show, and yet no-one ever sees your face, no-one ever knows who is the person behind the mask.
Imagine that you are one of the Teletubbies, or The Stig on Top Gear or one of The Power Rangers. You are part of, if not one of the main characters, on a hugely successful show, seen globally in some instances, and yet no-one may ever know it’s you.
We’re led to believe that many actors do what they do because they love the spotlight, the admiration. So what would it feel like to be an anonymous star?
Bingo: The King Of The Mornings tackles just such an issue by telling the true life story of Arlindo Barreto who was a soap actor, along with some soft porn to his credits, who became one of the actors to play Bozo the Clown on a hugely successful show throughout the 80’s in Brazil.
The names have been changed, owing to copyright issues, so Bozo is now Bingo and Arlindo Barreto is Augusto Mendes, played by Vladimir Brichta (Rock Story (TV), Alone Man), but it’s based on Barreto’s real life story.
Mendes wants more than the small parts he’s given, he wants to match his mother’s shadow. His mother, Ana Lucia Torre (Soul Mate, Irrational Heart), is a former soap star and talent judge who, in her time, used to be stopped in the street as people asked for her autograph.
Those days are behind her now, but her son wants to see the family name back in lights. He auditions for Bingo by chance and, after seeing the US TV exec be unimpressed by everyone he sees, Mendes decides to take a different approach and makes the crew laugh by taking the piss out of the American.
Of course, he’s speaking Portuguese and the exec can’t understand a word he’s saying, he just sees the crew falling about laughing and so he hires him.
Mendes is ambitious and wants to beat the current number one rated show at a rival TV station. He ad-libs instead of sticking to the script, to change things up for the Brazilian audience, and it works. They quickly have the number one TV show in Brazil.
But for Mendes it’s not enough, particularly when he can’t say who he is. He spirals into cocaine, alcohol and sex, he forgets about his son, Caua Martins, even forgetting his birthday.
He decides to write a treatment for a new soap and convinces his straight-laced, religious director, Leandra Leal (A Wolf At The Door, Empire (TV)), to pass it on to the powers that be. Having the number one show on TV isn’t enough, he wants more, he wants recognition.
His spiral into the less salubrious lifestyle culminates with him forgetting things on his live show, things like remembering to put his clown-nose on, and when his nose bleeds live on air, it’s the final straw and a replacement Bingo is sought.
He hits rock bottom when the alcohol leads to his son drinking, whilst he’s passed out on the sofa, and Mendes punching a TV, nearly killing himself in the process.
Writer Luiz Bolognesi (Brainstorm, Elis) injects some wonderful humour into the story whilst keeping the need and desire of Mendes in full view.
Director Daniel Rezende (best known as an editor for things like RoboCop and City Of God) keeps things firmly in the 80’s with bright colours and neon everywhere. A pumping synth-led soundtrack adds to the manic energy of Mendes and the scene when he realises he’s not Bingo anymore is superbly done.
Both have created a wonderful film. Sure it’s a tad long in parts and it can be infuriating to watch as Mendes spirals downward, ignoring all the signs that things aren’t going well, not taking any of the chances to stop. But that’s a credit to the writing, that you feel so emotionally in-tune with the character, that you want him to stop, to be the man we think he is.
It’s a fabulous story and a fantastic performance from Brichta who shines as both clown and Mendes. Bingo: The King Of The Mornings is a wonderful film, highlighting that sometimes, having what you want, isn’t always enough.
Bingo: The King Of The Mornings is released in UK cinemas 15th December