MADE IN ITALY – movie review

MADE IN ITALY
IFC Films
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: James D’Arcy
Screenwriter: James D’Arcy
Cast: Liam Neeson, Micheál Richardson, Lindsay Duncan, Valeria Bilello
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: August 7, 2020

Made in Italy (2020)

The most salient feature of “Made in Italy” is that the conflict between father and son is acted by the tale’s actual father and son. This is not unusual: you’ll find similar examples in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1973 feature “Paper Moon,” in which Ryan O’Neal and his real daughter Tatum play out a Depression era film about their partnership. Closer to the “Made in Italy” theme, Kiefer Sutherland portrays a bitter gunslinger, John Henry Clayton, who attempts to make amends with his estranged father Reverend Samuel Clayton (Donald Sutherland), while their community is besieged by ruthless land-grabbers.

If you have ever had not just a disagreement, but more closely a situation in which your conflict with your parent emanates from a lack of emotional closeness, you will relate strongly to “Made in Italy.” As filmed by Mike Eley in the gorgeous Tuscany town of Montalcino in central Italy—perhaps one of the best places that a father and son can work out issues of emotional distance—we see that Robert (Liam Neeson) has not been the most honest and direct guide for his son Jack (Micheál Richardson). (Micheál is the actual son of Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, the story poignantly reviving our memory of the actress who died tragically in 2009 of a head injury while skiing on Mount Tremblant in Quebec. Micheál one of the couple’s two children.)

The story kicks in when Jack, who made a great success managing the art gallery in Britain owned by his wife Raffaella (Helena Antonio), determines to buy the place at about the time the two are finalizing their divorce. Raffaella allows Jack one month to raise the money, which Jack expects to have after he and his dad, each with a half ownership of a house in Tuscany, find a buyer. They discover that the place is a wreck, though filled with memories of Jack’s mother. And what better time for a dad and his twenty-five-year-old son to get to know each other than by taking a road trip, then working together to fix up the dilapidated structure to make it salable? We learn that Jack and Robert have barely spoken with each other for years, and more importantly, that after Jack’s mother died in a car accident, his father sent him away to boarding school as though unable to establish a closeness that such a tragedy could engender.

During their time painting together, fixing up the place, and entertaining prospective buyers, Jack meets Natalia (Valeria Bilello), an accomplished cook who runs a booming restaurant and who wins the hearts of both the young man and his dad by cooking a dish that the two men call “amazing.” (Aside: if you did not have the delightful experience of traveling in Italy, you may not realize that there is no such thing as a bad meal anywhere in that country.)

The film is written and directed by James D’Arcy in his freshman narrative film, the London-born gentlemen having a large résumé of acting roles including that of Colonel Winnant in the spectacular war movie “Dunkirk.” If you can’t get a bad meal in Italy, you’d have difficulty finding a bad performance from Liam Neeson. The big news is that his son Micheál Richardson, with two more movies announced this year and who performed with Liam Neeson in a leading role in the revenge picture “Cold Pursuit,” does such a good turn here that you’d think he was emoting with his real dad!

The story can be sappy and the plot thin, but the picture is a keeper for the sumptuous scenery and a particularly vivacious turn from Valeria Bilello as the bilingual chef. Try not to envy the folks on the night that she served a full house of happy diners, talking, laughing, and eating magnificently.

93 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – movie review

  • CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

    Sony Pictures Classics
    Director:  Luca Guadagnino
    Screenwriter:  James Ivory, novel  by André Aciman
    Cast:  Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar
    Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 12/3/17
    Opens: November 24, 2017
    [ CALL ME BY YOUR NAME POSTER ]
    There’s a reason that Americans are crazy about Tuscany, just one of the most beautiful spots in Northern Italy made up of many towns whose names nobody knows. But everyone knows the term “Tuscany”  How can romance not flourish in a place like this?  And in the summer!  Falling in love is a piece of cake and you don’t even have to be as handsome as the two young fellows in this gorgeously photographed movie.  It certainly helps that the dialogue is whip-smart, the lovemaking is torrid, and it’s a place where one nice seventeen-year-old is blessed with a father who is more understanding than any other three dads you can name.  There’s little question that “Call Me By Your Name” is in the running for awards with even a potential nod to one skinny, sexually confused guy who plays and composes piano and guitar but needed a mentor to guide him to his official coming of sexual age.

    With a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes amid scores of reviews throughout the land, “Call Me By Your Name” focuses on two young men, one Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student, and 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a protégé, if you will, a guy who at one point early in the story responds to the question, “What do you do in this town” with “You wait for summer to pass.”  Little did he know that this, his eighteenth summer, would be a godsend.  That’s a good word for it, because Oliver has a distinct resemblance to a Greek or Roman god, and is the subject of a graduate paper Oliver is researching while spending his summer in Tuscany at the invitation of Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg). Each year the professor invites one such student to spend weeks in his spacious house and indulge in sumptuous dinners from Italy, the country with the world’s best cuisine.

    Palermo-born Luca Guadagnino who directs, the son of an Italian father and Algerian mother who spent his childhood in Ethiopia, is best known perhaps for helming “A Bigger Splash,” also taking place during a vacation and putting Tilda Swinton in the principal role.  But “Call Me by Your Name” is far and away his best work, taking advantage of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s lenses with an elegant piano score, some of it performed by Elio.  Since James Ivory’s screenplay adapts the novel by André Aciman, who is an Egyptian-born Sephardic Jew.  Since a Jewish theme is present in this film, one suspects at least some autobiographical input.

    Elio is sexually confused.  At seventeen, he has a fling with a girl about his age who wonders whether Elio considers herself “his girl.”  He may have wound up with her for a few months or years, but ultimately the two accept that they would be just friends.  All that’s because Elio meets Oliver, a six foot five inch blond with movie-star beauty, confident almost to the point of arrogance, who mixes in with the older people in the village and especially with the family that has taken him in.  It becomes clear to Oliver that Elio likes him and not only in a friend’s sort of way, but though the older man distances himself at first, perhaps because the boy is barely of age, nature kicks in, and as we know by now, “You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps coming back.” –Horace.

    Oliver wears the Star of David on his muscular chest. Soon enough Elio, who has hidden his Jewish identity to avoid sticking out in the village, now proudly copies his would-be sexual mentor.  Their sexual activity is passionate and yet hardly pornographic, as director Guadagnino knows that the best way to show sensuality is to be discreet.

    The movie is a switch for Armie Hammer, great-grandson of Armand Hammer, who usually plays action parts as with “The Lone Ranger,” and his skills are more than met by newcomer Timothée Chalamet, who has been kept busy by the movies and who has the luck to appear in “Lady Bird” as well—a film that you will see competing with this one for awards.  An exhilarating job by all with an exceptional role by Michael Stuhlbarg, who delivers an emotionally affecting monologue to his son toward the conclusion.

    Rated R.  131 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

    Story – A-
    Acting – A
    Technical – A
    Overall – A-