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Musica

Updated: May 16

Internet star Rudy Mancuso's directing debut is stunningly original



For those of us who grew up with the short-form video app Vine, the name of Rudy Mancuso will be familiar. Like many of the other popular creators on the platform, he would make the typical comedic social commentary videos, but he also showed a stunning creativity, incorporating puppets and music into his content unlike anyone else at the time. When the platform shuttered in 2017, many of these creators were left struggling to migrate to other apps, then a new generation of creators sprouted and captured the zeitgeist on TikTok, leading much of this talent to become a memory. However, Mancuso has been able to channel his creativity into producing, writing, directing, and starring in a feature film.

 

Musica (2024) is a semi-autobiographical story of Mancuso’s life. Rudy (Mancuso) is a student in Newark, New Jersey about to graduate. He finds his attention frequently wandering, distracted by everyday sounds that he turns into music in his head. He’s feeling lost and adrift regarding what to do with his life: does he sell out and take on a conventional career in the city with long-term girlfriend Hailey (Francesca Reale), or does he stay in Newark and pursue his passion of puppetry and crush Isabella (Camila Mendes).

 

Mancuso makes a stunning debut feature, seamlessly incorporating the musical world Rudy sees in everyday scrapes and bumps. Mancuso is bursting with ideas, incorporating lyrics as graffiti on the subway walls, having a puppet come to life and become a confidante, and Mancuso puts together one of the most original montage sequences I’ve seen in any film.

 

The first-time directing energy could have easily made Musica devolve into a gimmicky film, more focused on showing off that telling its story. However, Mancuso crafts a familiar yet subversive take on the romantic comedy, layering it with commentary on biculturalism and living with ADD. This gives Musica’s world an authenticity and intimacy that allows for his more generic beats to land softer. Musica will fall into a rather predictable romantic comedy beats, especially in the first two acts, but they are enlivened by the musical twists and enhancements that Mancuso comes up with. As with any film, it is not so much the story you are telling, but how you are telling it.

 

Mancuso stars as the protagonist and given the personal nature of the film he flits between the depressive and charming masks of his character with convincing honesty. Mendes pairs well with Mancuso, delivering a crackling chemistry that is essential in any “will-they-wont-they” screen duo. However, Mendes is stuck playing a generic dream girl for the majority of the film, although this is unexpectedly turned on its head with an honest and mature finale that brought a deeper introspection into the idea of “how to love” than I expected. The cast includes Mancuso’s own mother, Maria Mancuso, playing herself, and she steals every scene she’s in, much as she did in her cameos in Mancuso’s Vines, with her no filter and no nonsense.

 

Musica is a stunning debut, showcasing a filmmaker overflowing with energy, creativity, and ideas. The filmtakes on the romantic comedy mold, but redesigns and translates it into a transporting new experience. Mancuso’s passion of music and his ability to introduce it within in a scene using anything, all while staying focused on the story, elevates Musica from what would have been rote romantic comedy to an unforgettable original film. I truly can’t wait to see what Mancuso does next.  

8.5/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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