In Italian writer/director Gabriele Muccino’s new film, four family members are each going through a life crisis at the same time. The father, Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), is pushing 50 and has reached a point of crucial dissatisfaction, both with his job and his 20-year marriage to wife Giulia (Laura Morante). He pines for his radical youth, and then runs into old flame Alessia (Monica Bellucci), who’s also in a fading marriage and looking backward to more exciting times. Then there’s that novel he never finished, a tome which, from the snippets we hear when he reads it to Alessia, is probably best left abandoned in his desk drawer.
Giulia’s midlife crisis takes the form of a desire to revive her acting career; some of the movie’s best comic bits involve her attempts to get into the spirit of a play that’s even more absurdly pretentious than her hubby’s thwarted novel. As for their two children, the daughter, Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff), has the grand aspiration of becoming a professional bimbo: a dancer on a popular music/quiz show (the movie reinforces the general impression that Italian pop music is mostly lame eye candy). The son, Paolo (Silvio Muccino), is struggling with his crippling shyness and the indifference of the girl he has a crush on.
It all sounds kind of soapy — and it is — but the director paces his film with a great deal of vigor. He seems to have borrowed a page from Paul Thomas Anderson, particularly the hyper style that Anderson used in Magnolia, with each scene short and sweet, and the camera always in motion. It’s a good never-a-dull-moment technique that spices up a fairly run-of-the-mill domestic drama.
In Italian with English subtitles. Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17-18, at 7 and 9:30 p.m.; and on Sunday Sept. 19, at 4 and 7 p.m. call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].