The Satire in Diamantino
is as Bad as the CGI
For a film that critics have described as ‘irreverent’, ‘wild’, and ‘imaginative’, it’s downright shocking how regressive Diamantino is. Watching this conjures images of over-privileged men like Bret Easton Ellis railing against millennial outrage and David Brooks’ hand-wringing about a coddled generation. Digging beneath the film’s superficial parody of far-right politics, it becomes clear that Diamontino swims in these same waters. Rather than being a commentary on the vapidness of celebrity, climate change, and the refugee crisis, it pivots instead to what the directors Abrante & Schmidt must have seen as a visionary U-turn: A full-throated defense of an over-privileged man from a world dominated by women who are bent on destroying his way of life. Spoilers to follow.
In the film, Diamontino Matamouros (Carlato Cotta), an obvious stand-in for soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, sees his world change after learning about the refugee crisis. However, his attempts to help the situation are perpetually thwarted by women who are depicted as such heartless shrews that even Woody Allen would cringe. Diamantino is emasculated by his twin sisters who mock his relationship with his father, a woman talk show host humiliates him before the nation, women government agents spy on him, (one dons a nun’s habit to trick him while another pretends to be a refugee to sneak in his house), a woman scientist pumps his body full of hormones at the discretion of an evil mastermind: a woman in a wheelchair. This is the stuff of Tucker Carlson’s nightmares but the film is more than happy to ensure that all of these women get their comeuppance. By the end, most have been violently murdered, and a lesbian government agent has been sexually conquered. In a pivotal scene, a final cinematic flourish depicts the wheelchair-bound mastermind keeling over dead, her lipstick perversely blending with her blood as it oozes out of her mouth. The camera pulls back to see Diamantino’s naked masculine frame tower above her brandishing his sword. Good fucking grief.
It’s also particularly egregious that this woman is a Dr. Strangelove reference, in that it only emphasizes the dissonance at hand. In Kubrick’s film, General Ripper who orders a preemptive nuclear strike, rails against a “conspiracy to sap and drain our precious bodily fluids.” He admits that this realization came to him after having sex: “I do not avoid women…but I do deny them my essence.” Ripper says as he puffs on a giant cigar. In Strangelove he is a maniac and an idiot, but in Diamantino this conspiracy is realized, as we literally watch our noble protagonist being robbed of his essence by a woman scientist. Kubrick posits that these insecure hyper-masculine lunatics will destroy the world, while Abrantes & Schmidt on the other hand project a reality where pure-hearted men have been emasculated and need to prove themselves as men to set things right.
To make matters worse, there is a horrifying racial component that drives the heart of the plot. Aisha (Cleo Tavares), a Black lesbian woman working for the government pretends to be a refugee boy at Diamantino’s house. While we do get a couple of scenes of her laughing at the absurdity of the circumstances, it takes just a single montage before she is depicted as fully infantilized. In what is supposed to be a heartwarming scene she utters the skin-crawling phrase and Louis CK movie title: “I love you, Daddy.” She says it as she is swept away in the comfort and care of this wealthy light-skinned man. Later on in a sexual fantasy wholly incongruous with Diamantino’s supposedly virginal nature, he envisions her, not as the boy-child that he knows, but as a fully eroticized Black woman sprawled out on the shore, objectifying her supposed delivery unto him from the waves, and lending a vile element of racist eroticism to the refugee crisis.
This relationship also plays into the biggest ‘gag’ of the film. A side-effect of the experiments performed on Diamantino results in him growing breasts. A male computer voice repeatedly warns the woman scientist that the experiment is dangerous, but since in the Abrantes & Schmidt reality a woman would never listen to reason, she proceeds anyway. This breast growth acts the final catalyst in seducing Aisha, the implication being that attraction to breasts is the core of her lesbian identity and Diamantino has cracked the code. Meanwhile, the film misses no opportunity to use his breasts as a punchline. Abrantes & Schmidt treat the idea of a man with breasts as one of the funniest things in the world and insert them at every given opportunity like middle-schoolers clacking out 5-8-0-0-8 on a calculator.
The counterpoint to all of this regressive conservatism is that Diamantino is satirically presented as a pawn for a right-wing campaign to have Portugal leave the EU, build a wall, and Make Portugal Great Again. However, this shallow critique sits wholly at odds with nearly every other element of the film, and also makes no sense contextually given that Diamantino by this point has already had his reputation ruined and we are repeatedly reminded that he is seen as a national joke for crying after missing a World Cup Finals penalty kick.
This blunt obviousness of the ‘building a wall’ parody hews closer to the South Park school of comedy best defined by the infamous Dril tweet about there being zero difference between good and evil. This brand of satire inadvertently posits that building a wall is just as absurd as a lesbian relationship, racism is just as absurd as a man growing breasts, leaving the EU is just as absurd as adopting a refugee. Everything is a huge joke except for the death of the patriarch: “It’s too sad!” the shrewish sisters yell from the car as a mournful Diamantino carries his father’s ashes alone. This old man who by all demographic data would be the most likely to support the far-right is given the dignity that no one else in the film receives. ‘Hush’, the film seems to say, ‘let’s be serious for a second, a great man has died after all‘.
The Q&A with Daniel Schmidt following my screening opened up with a warning to the audience: “This is a fun film’, the moderator said, ‘No film-school-douche questions!” Behind me, I could hear someone already muttering about how bizarrely hetero-normative the ending was. The moderator’s comment was designed to preempt questions about this, or the racism, or the misogyny, or the transphobia – all of the things that can ruin a ‘fun’ time at the movies.
At the end of the conversation an audience member asked: ‘What movie were you worried this would be compared to?‘ , and perhaps mishearing the question, Schmidt mentioned being inspired by the films of Ernst Lubitsch, and then immediately apologized concerned that invoking Lubitsch might be too ‘film-school-douche’ of a thing to do. For the first time all night I agreed with him, he should have just said Dude Where’s My Car? and left it at that.
It’s hard to believe that 2020 is only halfway over, but hopefully this collection of wonderful films can serve as a balm to an otherwise harrowing year.
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Pete Davidson trips all over himself trying to grab the crown in this stale retread of Judd Apatow’s ‘man-child-grows-up’ genre.