Exploring issues of class privilege among Rio's decadent elite, Casa Grande depicts a teenage boy's struggle to escape his overprotective parents as they covertly spiral into bankruptcy.
Seventeen year old Caucasian high school senior Jean Cavalcanti, who attends a well regarded private boys' school, lives a relatively carefree life of moderate privilege in a security monitored and locked and gated big, custom built house in an affluent neighborhood in suburban Rio de Janeiro with his parents, Hugo and Sônia, fourteen year old sister Nathalie, and a houseful of servants including live-in maid Rita, black evangelical cook Noemia, and chauffeur Severino. Hugo and Sônia are too preoccupied with maintaining their upper middle class lifestyle to do much direct parenting with the exception of ensuring that Jean and Nat play their proper roles to the outside world, such as making sure that Jean gets into a good post-secondary program, something that Jean places little real effort. Not doing well on the college entrance exams may be a problem as the government has just implemented a quota system to balance the inherent disadvantages faced by non-Caucasians. Because of his parents' general neglect, Jean largely turns to the household staff instead of his parents, Severino, his chauffeur for his daily commute to/from the city to school, who initiates his first sexual experience with a prostitute. Jean is also able to sneak into Rita's room most nights on her teasing invitation to partake in foreplay and frank discussions of sex, although actual sex with him is a place she will not go. When Severino goes on vacation, Jean is forced to take public transit to school, a bus trip where he meets mixed race Luiza, who although not poor is not affluent like Jean's family. Although she is bright, Luiza admits that the quota system will benefit her and the basic inequalities she faces. The two begin to date. These issues in Jean's life are set against a backdrop of an issue of which he is unaware: that the hedge-fund Hugo managed has gone bust and thus he has lost his job. Hugo and Sônia do whatever they need to maintain their public façade of affluence - Severino who is not on vacation but was let go because of the financial issues - which includes living in the house they can no longer afford...
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