In 1940s Brazil, a cook, Dona Flor (Sonia Braga, Kiss of the Spider Woman), marries a passionate but irresponsible born-loser, Vadino (José Wilker, Gabriela), much to the consternation of her family and friends. After her undependable husband dies, Flor marries a respectable but cold gentleman, Dr. Madureira (Mauro Mendonça, Exposure), who is the exact opposite of her late husband. When Vadino returns as a ghost, Flor has a hard time deciding which husband makes her the happiest.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Not only have you returned. You are dead and you walk around naked…”
Although on the surface it looks like a silly sex farce, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is a startling perceptive movie about the differences between love and lust, two things that don’t necessarily come together. It’s also very funny in places.
Directed by Bruno Barreto (Four Days in September) (he was only twenty-one when he directed the film) and based on the best-selling novel by Jorge Amado, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands tackles many serious issues in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
The film plays like a sexier version of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, another story about ghosts and multiple spouses. Being a ’70s movie, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is franker and bolder than Coward’s famous work. It’s a very sensual comedy for grown-ups wrapped in the jolly sounds and colors of Latin America in the ’40s.
The film is built around the idea that the two husbands are two halves of one thing. The theme of duality extends beyond the two husbands, though. The wife struggles with the fact that society dictates that she acts differently around different people. In addition, the movie makes an important point about the dangers of extremes: Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. These are some ideas worthy of reflection.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands made Sonia Braga an international superstar. She is like Brazil’s answer to Italian actress Sophia Loren — the film has a lot in common with the popular sex-farces Loren made with actor Marcello Mastroianni (e.g. Marriage Italian Style). Braga is the movie’s focal point and she makes the most of her star-making role. The rest of the cast is very good, but this is Braga’s show.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands caused a sensation when it was first released. My best guess is that the film’s bold celebration of a woman’s sexuality shocked many viewers. This idea is not new (e.g. D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover), but for whatever reason it always raises eyebrows (E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is the latest example of an over-the-top response to something very natural). Highly recommended! Remade in 1982 under the title Kiss Me Goodbye. Color, 110 minutes, Rated R.