“Slumdog Millionaire” meets “All The President’s Men” in Stephen Daldry’s “Trash,” a tale of three Brazilian dumpster-dwelling children who uncover a plot of serious political intrigue from an inadvertently disposed wallet. The film provides a gritty look at their reality, though that comes more from the photography or the set design than anything in the story. Daldry uneasily balances the improbable conspiracy with the poverty expose, cobbling together a bland movie that satisfies neither aspect of its premise.
The bright spots are few and far between, though I suppose we all ought to be glad that Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara’s characters do not fulfill the “great white savior” tropes that plague movies of this sort. He serves as a priest, and she works for an NGO, but neither can protect or save the teenagers from the corruption and brutality of local law enforcement. Any small victories they achieve come from their street-smarts and intuitions.
But given the improbable journey set in motion by their discovery, “Trash” ought to feel more thrilling, entertaining – or at least illuminating about Brazilian society. Given the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the subject might once again prove of interest to audiences worldwide. Hopefully they choose to watch something authentic like “City of God,” not “Trash,” which feels obviously made by an outsider. C /