As far as my knowledge extends, "The Man of the Year" is Jose Enrique Fonseca's first feature film, and regardless of this fact, he manages to infuse it with a definite sense of style that he has no right to be able to. It is a gorgeous film, filled with distinctive color and cinematography, and looks better overall than most American films that attempt to pull off a similar look and feel. I look at movies like "Criminal" and "Confidence" and they don't come anywhere close in their attempts at style to what Fonseca accomplishes with his picture.
Polish aside, the most interesting thing about "The Man of the Year" is the way it deals with its conventional American story in a distinct way that is definitely foreign. It seems as though it is going in directions that the viewer can see and predict, but it occasionally throws something at us that we don't see coming. It seems to me to be effortlessly surprising, however, not strained, as though its writers don't see it as being anything particularly different. There is an apparent culture difference that gleams through its plot that makes it feel unique from what we are used to. Perhaps Brazilian culture is more accepting of existentialism in storytelling than we are here in North America . I appreciate that fact, and was close to giving this picture a recommendation until I realized something.
Where "The Man of the Year" fails, is in accurately conveying the sense of uncontrollability that its protagonist Maiquel (Murilo Benicio) is thrown into. One inconsequential thing spurns one bad decision, which leads to a life that is completely out of Maiquel's hands. He simply sits in his role and lets the people around him decide his fate which is sometimes positive, sometimes radically negative. He reacts emotionally to the position that he is put into, but the film does not. I see movies like "Hit Me" and "Match Point" which brood and build in suspense in response to their characters; "The Man of the Year" merely sits and watches. The film is shown through the eyes of Maiquel, but the audience never feels as trapped in the situation as they should. There are no peaks and no valleys; the film feels the same at any given point through its running time. With no cinematic reaction, there is no audience reaction, and that is a critical flaw.
I would not dissuade the viewer from seeing "The Man of the Year" and in fact, it may be worth watching for its distinct story. It fails where it is most important that it succeeds, however, so for a better example of Brazilian cinema, watch "City of God" instead.