Italian actor at the heart of over-the-top dramedy
By Pablo Suarez
Family reunion turned brawl is a frequent film theme, too frequent to do it efficiently
In Latin Lover, Italian director Cristina Comencini attempts to bring to life a comedic ensemble of the family type, in which five daughters of Saverio Crispo, a famous Italian star, all born to different mothers and with different nationalities, gather on the 10th anniversary of his death to pay homage to his career.
Soon, the meeting turns into adequate territory for recriminations, fond memories, disclosures of long-hidden secrets, emotional outbursts and unexpected romantic entanglements. By the time the rendez vous is over, all these women and the few men who accompany them will no longer be the same.
Both a myth and a true womanizer, Saverio could never settle down with just one partner. Hence, the many love affairs and the many daughters. Each woman has a very personal appreciation of Saverio, depending on the affection and care — or lack of it — they've received from him. It’s like any other family, with a famous father or not.
The overall performances are more than fine from the mostly female cast — Marisa Paredes; the late Virna Lisi in her last film role; and Candela Peña heading the list — Latin Lover has a hard time establishing the right tone and achieving some degree of verisimilitude. You believe the actresses; you just don't believe what happens to them. Many situations verge on the absurd and don't feel genuine. Instead, they seem to have been dictated by a screenwriter who wants to be outrageously funny and fails because of the artificiality of his product.
That much of the drama is conveyed via dialogue hinders the nature of the entire film If you have your characters say basically whatever it's necessary to add subplots and reveal the family’s behind-the-scenes secrets, then there's no need at all to address the same issues in a more cinematic manner. Plus, as to emphasize the absurdity of some situations, actors go over the top saying their lines and trying to bring forward some sense of true drama. Regrettably, it doesn't work.
So, leaving aside some occasional scenes and, to a larger or lesser degree, all the performances, Latin Lover doesn't have much more to offer to demanding viewers familiar with situation comedy. Come to think of it, some scenes depicting the late Saverio and what he meant to his audience are indeed effective. Which isn't much to say.
Latin Lover. Italy, 2015. Directed by: Cristina Comencini. Written by: Cristina Comencini, Giulia Calenda. With: Virna Lisi, Marisa Paredes, Angela Finocchiaro, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Candela Peña, Francesco Scianna, Lluís Homar, Neri Marcoré, Jordi Mollà, Pihla Viitala. Music: Andrea Farri. Cinematography: Italo Petriccione. Editing: Francesca Calvelli. Produced by Lionello Cerri. Distributed by: CDI. Running time: 104 minutes.