Música review: Camila Mendes proves she’s the Queen of Amazon rom-coms

Rudy Mancuso’s new sort-of musical premieres April 4.
Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes in Música - credit: Courtesy of Prime
Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes in Música - credit: Courtesy of Prime /

In the new season of Girls5eva on Netflix, there’s a particularly hilarious scene where the world’s biggest musical star, played by Descendents and Gossip Girl actor Thomas Doherty, explains to the titular girl group “I was the first person to realize that anything can be music.” Their dryly sarcastic reaction? “Oh, my god. Really?” and “Wow.” He then proceeds to show them how he can turn anything in their hotel room into music, while they play along, as if he had invented something entirely new.

Heck, when I was in my Senior year of college, my brilliant idea for my final project for film class was “what if life was actually like a musical?” And I certainly was far from the first person to come up with that idea, even though at the time I definitely thought I was.

So why is it that Música, a new sort of musical rom-com debuting on Prime Video on April 4 based on essentially the same premise works? It’s pretty simple, actually: the chemistry between writer/director/star/etc. Rudy Mancuso and co-star Camila Mendes is electric, and the musical numbers are very good.

In fact, the whole cast is pretty solid across the board. Mancuso stars as, essentially, himself at the beginning of his career… A man afflicted with a version of synesthesia that makes him hear everything in the world as rhythms and music, an actual thing Mancuso was diagnosed with in real life. In the movie, Mancuso somewhat subtly implies that his synesthesia was either caused or activated by incidents of childhood trauma, which gives the movie a layer of pathos. But mainly the constant distraction is holding him back, both from his relationships and career.

The first section of the movie sets this up nicely as his girlfriend Haley (a sympathetic Francesca Reale) breaks up with him, and his mother Maria (played by Mancuso’s real mother) tries to set him up on an aborted date with a Brazilian woman. We also meet J.B. Smoove as Anwar, a confidant/Halal truck owner who alternately helps and impedes Rudy on his journey, all with Smoove’s usual lackadaisical charm.

Mancuso, who grew to fame for his Vines, then YouTube channel and puppet shows, has the same sort of rhythm to his mostly stoic delivery – something that doesn’t exactly drag down the first chunk of the movie, but other than a sheen of pleasantness doesn’t quite engage.

That’s sort of the point, though, as both the movie and Mancuso’s life get an injection of energy the second Mendes’ Isabella appears on screen. She works as a fishmonger, something she’s pretty happy about. And in any other movie, she’d be the manic pixie dream girl who shakes up Mancuso’s life. Instead, Mendes provides the pointed grounding and focus he needs. He’s the stoic pixie, it turns out; not her.

Camila Mendes in Música - credit: Courtesy of Prime /

Two months ago, Mendes starred in and Executive Produced Upgraded, another perfectly pleasant romantic comedy on Prime Video. And now she’s also an EP on Música – and is easily the best part of both movies. While neither are quite on the level of the superb Do Revenge, which she starred in back in 2022, Mendes has shown herself off as having an eye for picking projects – particularly rom-coms on Amazon starring herself. Is Mendes the new Queen of Amazon Rom-Coms? Amazon-Coms, if you will? She’s certainly making a strong argument for that in 2024.

Back to the movie, though, you can see where this one is going. While the relationship with Isabella heats up, Haley reenters Rudy’s life, and wants a second chance. So he dates both, and it’s not too much of a spoiler to say things come predictably crashing down by the end.

The plot hits those familiar rom-com beats, but it’s the gameness of the cast that makes it all work – plus the musical numbers. In particular, a sequence where Mancuso shows off how his brain works while sitting in the park to Isabella is both expertly done and has a killer punchline. A stand-out one-take sequence where Mancuso walks through several nights and days of trying to date both women as stagehands rotate in various sets shows off the promise of what creative YouTube training can do when given a feature film budget.

There’s also a nice specificity to the movie. In between everything else, it is firmly set in New Jersey, and doesn’t shy away from rampant crime and weirdness in between small moments of beauty. And Mancuso’s Brazilian heritage both fuels conflict, and provides a bit of tension to certain sequences, like one harshly pointed one where he has dinner with Haley’s extremely caucasian parents.

But even there, everything is mostly harmless, and doesn’t push too hard in any particular direction. Could it have used a little more sharpness in places, beyond Mendes’s scenes? Surely. But given that it manages to touch on some tropes that were old when Garden State came out, and weaves away from them quickly and effortlessly, that’s to be lauded, too.

To put a point on it, Música plays exactly how Mancuso experiences his synesthesia in the movie. At first, it’s charmingly there in the background. But the longer it goes on, it manages to pull you in with spurts of beauty as it continues. Just as Mancuso figured out how to make the way his senses work, work for him, so too does the film. This may be an idea that’s been bumping around for decades – or centuries – now, but thanks to Mancuso’s direction, and Mendes’s star-power, it ultimately works. And that’s Música to my ears.

Next. Fallout, Them Season 2, and more coming to Prime Video in April 2024. Fallout, Them Season 2, and more coming to Prime Video in April 2024. dark