Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:25 pm 
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"Comedy" around hip priest pushes trite "lesson"

In Se Dio Vuole ("If God Wants"), Tommaso (Marco Giallini), a bossy, busy surgeon, gets turned around after his son Andrea (Enrico Oetiker), a promising medical student, suddenly declares he's decided to become a priest instead. Tommaso, who is an atheist, is furious, and seeks to subvert Andrea's plan by undermining the reputation of Don Pietro, the charismatic, trendy priest who has inspired Andrea. There are a few laughs, but this isn't really a comedy because it has too obvious an agenda. It's basically an advert for hip modern Italian Catholicism. The priest, who melts Tommaso's resistance, is played by by hottie actor Alessandro Gassman. The Tommaso-Don Pietro bromance doesn't convince; it's merely the result of Don Pietro's patient and relentless pushing of his program (also the movie's). This hokey relationship is at the heart of the film's lack of rhythm or momentum and moves jerkily toward a trite "lesson" about acknowledging fallibility and giving God a chance.

The presence of Laura Morante as Carla, Tommaso's fed-up wife, reminds one of a similar role she played in Carlo Verdone's funny comedy of attempted partner-swapping, Love Is Eternal While It Lasts /L'Amore è eterno finché dura. Verdone's more mainstream, ordinary comedy may inform us about contemporary Italian mores surrounding marriage and adultery with its speed-dating sequences, but it has no agenda. Instead it's just funny and alive with Verdone's brand of vernacular Roman humor. Edoardo Maria Falcone's sappy prosteletyzing masked as comedy is another example of the rut Italian movies have been in lately. Of course Verdone is not vintage Italian film comedy: for that one must go back the the Fifties and Sixties. But his film shows Italian movies can still be fun.

As Tommaso Giallini is smooth, vigorous, but essentially colorless. The most one can say for Gassman is that he is so suave and charismatic, his priest's glib platitudes seem to fall away and leave him unscathed. The film ends with an ambiguous Hallmark moment where the skeptic seems to have become a believer due to the power of fate (and bad driving).

Se Dio vuole/If God Wills, 85 mins., opened theatrically in Italy 9 April 2015. It was screned for this review as part of the San Francisco Film Society's New Italian Cinema series, Nov. 2015.

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