Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:07 am 
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Fabio Volo and Martherita Buy in Weddings and Other Disasters

Pre-wedding flirtation

With her pleasantly faded looks and good humor, Italian star Margherita Buy is the anchor of this mildly entertaining, neutral-style knockoff of an Ephron-esque Hollywood comedy about an old maid in a well-off Florentine family whose younger sister is about to get hitched. Nana (Buy)'s last serious fling with a guy ended up with him turning to the priesthood. She now runs a nice bookstore with a friend (the subject of a pointless subplot) and says she likes her life as, putting it nicely, a "single independent woman." Whatever. Anyway she's available when her sister Beatrice (Francesca Inaudi) has to leave town -- a Florence as postcard-y as anything in Under the Tuscan Sun -- to cooprate with Beatrice's fiance to move forward with the wedding plans.

An odd situation, borderline implausible, but it performs its necessary function of putting Nana together with Alessandro (Fabio Volo) -- himself the only reason for watching the movie, and a self-made man who turns out to be more complex than he first appears. Needless to say, Nana and Alessandro hit it off, and before long he's politely hitting on her. He's a bit nutty and he drives his expensive Alfa like a madman, but he's playful and real and surprisingly modest and the fantastic backstory he tells to a priest turns out to be true. If only this movie were about him and he were at the center of it. Unfortunately it's not and he's not, and when Volo's offscreen the champagne quickly goes flat.

The mother of the bride, who Nana says is thinner and more elegant than she is, is played by Marisa Berenson, who as Variety says was "oddly punished by the costume designer" (Grazia Maria Colombini). To the story, there's no real trajectory. Of course Beatrice comes back, and there's no trouble, just more and more flirtation and drunken byplay at the last minute, and then the wedding, where everybody is happy. Nana talks to the ex-boyfriend priest and finds out he's still turned on by her. His joining the priesthood wasn't her fault. She goes on being a Meg Ryan substitute. And the movie's repertoire of pop songs in English dries up.

Besides being Hollywood in the palaces the people live in, their glamorous good looks, and the glossiness of everything, this movie's approach to its Florence location is also wholly touristic. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and remember they're speaking Italian. Passably entertaining for anybody who likes this kind of comedy, but only of real interest when Fabio Volo's character is on screen, and, all in all, another sign that Italian cinema is not in top form.

Weddings and Other Disasters/Matrimoni e altri disastri opened in theaters in Italy in April 2010. Reviewed as part of the San Francisco Film Society's New Italian Cinema festival, shown at Landmark's Embarcadero Theater on Thursday, November 18, 8:45 pm and Saturday, November 20, 6:30 pm. Also included at Seattle's very similar Italian series during this same time period -- but omitted from Lincoln Center's bigger June series.

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