With a family like this, who needs enemies?
As the film opens into the lush countryside of Puglia, Italy and the cozy chattering of the lovingly offbeat Cantone family the audience knows this is going to be a feast of cinematography. Perhaps an Italian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Only this will be better since the sets, scenery, food and wine are as good as they get. Director Ferzan OzpetekCinematography is by Maurizio Calvesi, previously nominated for both the Italian Golden Globe and David di Donatello (similar to American Oscar) Awards. The photography takes us up and down the most marvelously ancient and decrepit staircases, through wavy and aged windows with painstakingly hand carved frames, crumbling walls and softly peeling plaster. Each scene is a still life worthy of framing.
Calvesi does a great job bringing the viewer into the lives of real Italians. OK, they are not completely real. No Italian is completely real when you can turn them on and off like a coffee grinder. In fact, towards the end of this film you will be ready to turn them off. Enough is enough.
But that is getting ahead of the story. As the family is gathering for the big wedding of the scion and heir to the family pasta throne, Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi), father and factory founder Vincenzo is beside himself with glee. The family line is to be continued by children who look like they emerged from magazine underwear advertisements and the grandchildren promise to be even more beautiful. At least that will be the case if the new corporate partner, the scintillatingly beautiful Alba (played to delicious perfection by Nicole Grimaudo), has any genes in the pool.
In the midst of this reverie younger son Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio) confesses to macho big brother Antonio that this will be the occasion for more big news than father Vincenzo knows. Tommaso is going to announce that he is gay and is going to part ways with the family business to be a basket weaver, or whatever. Big brother is stunned, he had no idea. Perhaps because he is harboring a secret of his own.
When the announcement is made, father Vincenzo succumbs to a heart attack shortly after and Tommaso is forced to make a decision he never thought would stare him in the face. He must choose between his own right to live his life as he chooses and his love for his father. The old man cannot take much more of the younger generation, their loss of traditional values and their loss of appreciation for stunning Italian women who look like they just emerged from magazine underwear advertisements.
Donatello nominee and Venice Film Festival winner Scamarcio does a good job as a young man battling against all odds to defend his right to be himself. Thrice Donatello nominated veteran actor Ennio Fantastichini almost steals the show as father Vincenzo. From cardiac malfunction to mystery mistress he is never without a family to stand by and a story to stick to. He goes well over the top as the stereotypical Italian head of household who demands complete command of his family but has only partial command of his heart, and his morals.
Aided by a hilarious persona and very good screenwriting Elena Sofia Ricci plays eccentric and love starved Luciana who keeps her virtue intact in spite of a never-ending series of nightly meetings with her secret amour by claiming nightly skulkings by a perpetually uncaught burglar.
Last but not least, a great performance by the sexy and sophisticated Nicole Grimaudo as businesswoman and new age Italian seductress Alba.
The film is kept rocking by an Original Music by Pasquale Catalano. Subterfuges both realistic and ridiculous keep this amiable family drama going through the first half, although the last half starts to morph into serious daytime TV soap opera. Still, a good time is had by all and life goes on.
Directed by: Ferzan Ozpetek
Written by: Ferzan Ozpetek and Ivan Cotroneo
Starring: Riccardo Scamarcio, Nicole Grimaudo and Ennio Fantastichini
Release: Tribeca Film Festival, a Fandango Production
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 110 minutes