Grade A+ - 94%
A third season is out now! Watch the first to catch up; you won’t be sorry. And of course, read our review of the first season so you’ll be the smartest kid in class.
New out on Netflix in March, “Most Beautiful Thing” transports viewers back in time to 1950’s and ‘60’s Brazil and the world-changing events that originated there. Forget the destruction of the Amazon, forget the polluted beaches. Go back in time and you’ll want to stay – for the sun, for the pristine water, for the food, the drinks, the cigarettes, but most importantly, for the music.
The new sound that transforms Rio de Janeiro in the ‘50’s and 60’s transformed music around the world, and that’s no exaggeration. Sinatra made a Bossa Nova album! Bossa Nova, literally, the new wave, not only transformed music around the world at that time, it introduced a new fashion, lifestyle, and way of thinking, especially if you were a woman. For what began as something for the upper classes of Brazilian society, developing first at universities, affected all social strata and races.
Our story begins with our heroine, Maria Louisa, later dubbed Malu, arriving from Sao Paulo to meet her husband who was supposed to have been setting up a new restaurant for them to run together. By together, I mean with her money. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, he’s run off with another woman and Maria’s money, leaving her alone and now dependent on her father for support. What at first is a devastating blow, becomes an opportunity for Malu to choose her own life, and she does it with style.
Luckily for her and for us, she has great taste, and the Bossa Nova club she decides to open instead of the restaurant, while socially beneath her, becomes the vehicle of her freedom and that of her friends. Childhood friend Ligia and new friends, Adelia (who saves Malu from a fire early in the first episode) and Theresa share in the creation and success of the club. Ligia begins to sing again and perform, Theresa, who writes for a local paper, advertises the club, and Adelia, the one friend who is not of the upper class or the same race as the others, becomes Malu’s partner.
What Can We Learn From This Period Drama?
Well, life wasn’t easy for women in the 1950’s but it was even harder for a woman of color in the lower class strata. This class, living in the hills of Rio had, as they would say, their own food, their own music, and dancing. But Bossa Nova did something that other cultural folk music couldn’t. It united the classes under the idea of a Brazilian state of mind. It took the influence of Latin Jazz, Blues, Brazilian Samba, and the South Zone of Rio and made them a song of nationalism.
And so, when Malu and Adelia, an African Brazilian, become business partners in the Bossa Nova club, they break all the rules of “polite society”, mixing the races and the classes. They pay the price socially, especially Malu whose father stops talking to her and seeks to gain custody of her five-year-old son. The patriarchy holds ransom what women love most in an attempt to control them. Marriage and motherhood are gifts given to those who obey.
What This Show Does Well
It tells the story of Bossa Nova, but more than that, it creates a visual world, with its seashore and soft breezes blowing your hair away from your face, the sun blanketing you in warmth while a beautiful man plays the guitar at your feet. You’ll want to go there, trust me.
“Most Beautiful Thing” weaves the story of feminism in Brazil through the music of Bossa Nova as intimately as if your girlfriend were telling you what happened to her sister. It’s personal. When Ligia gives up her dream of a career in music despite the encouragement of others, she gives up a big part of herself, and all for her husband’s dream of becoming Mayor of Rio de Janeiro. His dreams are the important ones. Her future children take president over her own life as if her existence is predicated on theirs. And when her husband abuses her, she wonders if she didn’t bring it on herself.
Adelia’s musician boyfriend comes back from playing gigs all over the world, to ask her to marry him and finally make her daughter legitimate. While he’s a sympathetic character and has good intentions (he sends them money), he’s taken his sweet time to do what society expected of him all along. Meanwhile, Adelia has lived as a single mother with only her sister for support. He’s decided that it’s time to settle down, so guess what? It’s time!
Malu’s man troubles aren’t over after her husband leaves. She soon falls for a musician whose voice and eyes and everything else will make you catch the next plane to Rio. But of course, no one has everything, unfortunately, what he has is a drinking problem. His Brazilian ennui will make you sigh, but he’s got to get it together to win Malu’s heart.
And lastly, Theresa, perhaps our most complicated character, lives a life many women would envy. She works as a writer at a local magazine, her husband is liberal and open-minded about a woman working (bless him) and sex with other men and women, wow! Apparently, what’s good for the goose really is good for the gander. But there’s a sadness in their relationship that they can’t heal, the loss of a child. For all of Theresa’s accomplishments, she cannot have what most distinctively belongs to a woman.
The political/social ideas of the time weave seamlessly with the personal stories so that we learn valuable lessons about the personal cost of real freedom – the freedom to earn a living, the freedom to live where you want, the freedom to love who you want, the freedom to make your dreams come true.
Most Beautiful Thing (Portuguese: Coisa Mais Linda) is a Brazilian period drama web television series created by Giuliano Cedroni and Heather Roth. It stars Maria Casadevall, Pathy Dejesus, Fernanda Vasconcellos, Mel Lisboa, Leandro Lima and Ícaro Silva. The first season, consisting of seven episodes, premiered on Netflix worldwide on March 22, 2019.