But, wait … aren’t Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul separated by some 6,300 miles? Yes, and that kind of lackadaisical looseness is what keeps the movie from building on initial strength. Continuing the year’s apparent trend of Brazilian settings, “Rio Sex Comedy” is less colorful than the animated “Rio” and less slick than “Fast Five,” but refreshingly adult, if also maddeningly meandering.
Directed by Jonathan Nossiter (helmer of the wine doc “Mondovino”), the English/French hybrid follows a quartet of main characters — two men, two women — whose stories casually intersect. Charlotte Rampling (“The Duchess”) is a plastic surgeon used to catering to the rich, but now is doing philanthropy breast augmentation for a public clinic. Irene Jacob (“U.S. Marshals”) conducts video interviews for an anthropology project. Bill Pullman (TV’s “Torchwood: Miracle Day”) is Rio’s brand-new U.S. ambassador who’s unsure how he landed the gig, since he feels vastly underqualified — so much so that he goes missing. And Stevens (“Henry’s Crime”) is Fish, a tour guide who helps the ambassador go underground, all while dating a jungle girl who sees Rio’s famous statue of Christ and longs to be a “big actor” like him.
Each performer is fizzy at first, but as their individual stories are established, the carbonation dissipates, as it’s clear neither plot is going nowhere. Nossiter’s structure recalls “Love Actually,” “In the Loop” and every partially improved ensemble comedy made in the last decade, but to no degree of lasting success or ingratiation. Perhaps he sensed it, offering scads of gratuitous nudity throughout as a measure of distraction, but the effort is as transparent and offhanded as the movie’s label-like title. —Rod Lott