Most Beautiful Thing (Coisa Mais Linda) is a Brazilian series on Netflix. Set in 1959 Rio de Janeiro, the series features 4 leading women who break every convention.
In addition to the feminist bent of the leading characters, Most Beautiful Thing (Coisa Mais Linda) has women writers and directors behind the scenes.
The story revolves around the bossa nova scene in Rio in the days before Brazilian music was known and celebrated internationally. The music in the series is wonderful.
Maria Luíza (Maria Casadevall) leaves her home in São Paulo to join her husband in Rio, only to find he’s taken off with all her money.
In a rage, she nearly burns down her apartment building and so meets Adélia (Pathy Dejesus). Adélia is a woman of color working as a maid who rescues Maria Luíza by putting out the fire.
The one thing Maria Luíza does have is the deed to a basement room she and her husband were planning to make into a restaurant. Maria Luíza makes the first of many unusual decisions when she befriends Adélia and seeks her help in turning the basement into a music club. Their relationship and their ambitions break every social and racial barrier in segregated, patriarchal Rio. No man is willing to help them.
Add to the mix Lígia (Fernanda Vasconcellos) and Thereza (Mel Lisboa). These two friends of Maria Luíza are married to very different brothers. Lígia secretly burns to be a singer. Her husband is an aspiring politician, Augusto (Gustavo Vaz). He beats her. In one awful scene, he rapes her (big trigger warning – I think that happens in episode 3, so look out).
Thereza is married to Nelson (Alexandre Cioletti). He’s a much softer kind of man who has a secret past involving Adélia. Thereza works on a magazine and constantly battles to get more women on the staff, more stories of interest to women in the magazine. She’s a second-wave feminist with an activist bent which she has some power to spread to readers. She hires an excellent writer named Helô (Thaila Ayala) and has a brief affair with her.
Maria Luíza meets Chico (Leandro Lima), who sounds a lot like Antonio Carlos Jobim. (Speaking of Jobim, the opening song for every episode is a woman singing “The Girl from Ipanema” in English, and not very well. Why, when a Portuguese version would make so much more sense?)
Chico dubs Maria Luíza “Malú .” The name is adopted by everyone. She wants him to appear in her club.
Malú gives her friend Lígia a microphone in her club as well. As they become more and more successful, even internationally known musicians agree to appear in the club.
The path to success for Malú and Adélia as partners in the club is not an easy one. There are many setbacks.
Each of the main characters has a love life, with a number of issues facing them in that area. Malú and Adélia both have young children to think about.
The 7th and final episode of season 1 ends with a horrific cliffhanger. Surely there must be a second season in the works. They can’t leave these characters in a state like that.
The beautiful women, handsome men, marvelous music, and the soapy melodrama of Most Beautiful Thing (Coisa Mais Linda) create an enjoyable mix.
There were some faults in the story, but overall it was good entertainment. I loved the women fighting for empowerment, of course.
The camera loved Rio de Janeiro. Each shot of the city, the mountains, and the beach was picture postcard perfect – a misty memory from a time long gone.
The series is in Brazilian Portuguese with English subtitles. Thanks to my Twitter pal @AngelaThompson for alerting me to this series.