REVIEW: Lulli (2021)

lulli_posterBrazilian comedy Lulli is an amiable addition to Netflix’s range of international features, but its creative team are low-balling it. This is bland, commercial fluff: easy to enjoy in a breezy sort of way, but you will have forgotten half of it within minutes of finishing.

Lulli (Larissa Manoela) is a medical student who does not listen to other people. She takes her boyfriend Diego (Vinícius Redd) for granted, fails to support best friends Vanessa (Amanda de Godoi) and Julio (Sergio Malheiros), and her inattentive treatment of hospital patients puts lives at risk. When she is electrocuted in an MRI mishap, Lulli wakes with a newfound ability to hear other people’s thought – and after listening to no one, she is now forced to hear everyone.

It is basically Nancy Meyer’s What Women Want (2020), albeit in Portuguese, gender-swapped, and with significantly less sexist nonsense or Mel Gibson. It does not re-invent any wheels, nor does it innovate to any degree whatsoever, but it is bright, simple, and – for its intended audience – a perfectly watchable diversion. One wonders how it will fare internationally though, given that the audience seeking such uncomplicated entertainment may not be interested in viewing it through subtitles, but it can be commended for knowing its market and doing its job.

That really is kind of the extent of it. The characters are each thinly drawn and stereotypical, and the story beats are easily predicted in advance. Despite being based around a group of twentysomething medical students, the film’s understanding of medicine is presented in broad strokes only – any viewer that has spent half an hour in an MRI machine will spot the inaccuracies from orbit. Screenwriters Thalita Rebouças and Renato Fagundes could have added any number of distinct wrinkles or texture, but do not seem bothered. There is no point looking for any inventiveness on a visual level, either: director César Rodrigues is effectively directing the film like 1990s made-for-television filler.

Larissa Manoela plays Lulli in a watchable fashion, but she lacks any sort of material to actually act to any real degree. The same goes for her co-stars: there is no one here that is actively poor, but no one has the opportunity to be particularly good either.

In 2021 Netflix paid about US$17 billion in production and content acquisition worldwide, and it really is the word “content” that resonates. It honestly feels as if Lulli and other films like it do not exist to entertain an audience. Netflix likely has no particular interest in whether or not Lulli enchants, provokes, or fascinates its audience. In all honesty, it does not even matter too much if viewers watch it at all. What is important is that they subscribe, and that they continue subscribing to Netflix indefinitely. Lulli exists to be a photograph and a title on a screen; one of hundreds of anonymous productions to be passively scrolled past by paying subscribers, each reassured that – while they’re only really there for Stranger Things and The Witcher – they’re being granted outstanding value all the same. This is, for all intents and purposes, cinema as wallpaper. Thinking of the time, money, and talent spent making Lulli, I find that rather depressing.

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