American angst in a film about Italian family life
Politically, the United States and Europe have seemed to be drifting in opposite directions of late. But in the smaller picture of family life, it may be that Americans and Europeans are closer than ever.
“Remember Me, My Love,” a film by Italian director Gabriele Muccino, will comfort Americans who think their country has an exclusive stranglehold on self-absorption, disregard for communal values, stifling frustration and self-loathing, and bullheaded ambitions toward vacuous ends. The Ristuccia family of Rome, the focus of Muccino’s film, is as all-American as Courtney Love, Paris Hilton, Kobe Bryant and the cast of your typical reality TV show. The idea that Europeans are filled with concern for community relative to Americans is burst by the sharp pin of “Remember Me, My Love.”Begin with the most Americanized of the Ristuccia family, 17-year-old Valentina (Nicoleta Romanoff). Valentina has the kind of looks that make men do stupid things, and she is determined to ride her bod as far as it will take her. Her goal: to become one of the background dancers on “Ali Baba,” a reality show that makes “Fear Factor” look smart by comparison. Anything that gets in Valentina’s way – especially her parents – brings out the self-centered brattiness that only a 17-year-old girl can muster.Not that those parents are putting much effort into guiding their daughter. Mostly they scream and threaten. But they’re too involved with their own miseries to do much more. Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) detests his job as some sort of high-level salesmen, and his dissatisfaction with his marriage is pushing him toward an affair with a former lover, Alessia (Monica Bellucci). Giulia (Laura Morante) is just as unhappy at home, resulting in a hair-trigger temper and fits of depression. The internal angst leads to irrational, ill-considered behavior: Carlo quits his job with no plan for what comes next and sleeps with the equally unstable Alessia. Giulia auditions for a role in an edgy drama – one that parallels her life a little too closely- with a local theater company. For good measure, she also pursues the play’s director; it is very good news when he turns out to be gay.Rounding out the family is 19-year-old Paolo (Silvio Muccino) who, as a lovelorn, pot-smoking, insecure sad sack, is the best – make that the least overtly offensive – of the Ristuccia clan.
Though the Ristuccias tumble endlessly toward their own destructions, director Muccino, who co-wrote the screenplay, doesn’t revel in their sorrows. Each character is reaching for happiness, and Muccino doesn’t fault them that it may be out of their grasp. Muccino even lets them claw their way out of their pits for brief glimpses of sunlight. Following a serious accident that can only partly be chalked up to misguided deeds – Carlo is hit by a car as he heads for a rendezvous with Alessia – the family rallies around one another. For a while.The stories of dreams broken and compromised in “Remember Me, My Love,” and the subsequent effects on people’s emotions and actions, ring true. And the pace of the film – if something isn’t happening to someone, they’ll make it happen – is guaranteed to stave off boredom. If that doesn’t do it, the gorgeousness of all three lead female characters should keep at least half of the audience up.But that hyperactive element is also the film’s biggest weakness. (Another example of creeping Americanization?) “Remember Me, My Love” never pauses to allow thoughtful consideration of the characters’ plights. Flashing back to a recent American film with similar themes, the bleaker “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” lingered on the actors, gaining depth by doing so. In “Remember Me, My Love,” we become more sympathetic to the characters’ situations than the characters themselves.
“Remember Me, My Love” plays Tuesday, March 8, and Thursday, March 10, at the Wheeler Opera House.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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