Friday, March 16, 2012

Immaturi [2011]

Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Wikipedia listing - (Ital. orig, Eng. trans)

Immaturi (The Immature) directed and written by Paolo Genovese with some help from Marco Alessi as a script consultant, is a typically light/gentle Italian comedy that played recently at the 15th annual European Union Film Festival being held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago during the month of March.

The premise is somewhat improbable -- 20 years after passing the state mandated final exam to graduate out from high school, officials retract the results of a single class 25 students from Rome as a result of the admission of one student that he/she cheated.  So all 25 have to take the test again, 20 years later at age 40 rather than at 20 ;-).

As silly/improbable as the premise initially may seem, however, it plays on a fairly common experience of dreaming of finding oneself back in school and being asked to complete some unexpected assignment or pass some unexpected test.  Indeed, one of the main characters in the film notes near the beginning of the story that the situation felt "exactly like a recurring nightmarish dream that [he'd] been having ever since graduating from school."  Many film-critics and psychologists alike have compared/contrasted the experiences of film watching (in quiet and in the dark) to dreaming.  So the audience is invited through the characters in the story to indulge in an experience which, while unrealistic, is nonetheless relatable.

The first thing that the characters in the story discover that the experience of being forced to take a test over, 20 years after taking it the first time, isn't necessarily a bad one.  It gives them an excuse to "reconnect" in a way that they hadn't in years.  Indeed, a group of eight of them who had been friends in high school come back to form their study group of old.

The second thing that the audience discovers and long before the characters in the story do ;-) is that though these characters had graduated some 20 years ago, most of them hadn't really grown-up yet.  Almost all of them remained in some way "immature."  There's Piero (played by Luca Bizzarri [IMDb]) who plays a late night radio talkshow host who is lying to his girlfriend Cinzia (played by Giulia Michelini [IMDb]) telling her he's married and with a small child so that he could keep a distance from her and keep things 'uncomplicated' ;-).  There's Giorgio (played by Raoul Bova [IMDb]) who's a child psychologist living with his longtime girlfriend Marta (played by Luisa Ranieri [IMDb]).  Their parents have all but given-up on their ever getting married, but now Marta finds herself pregnant and Giorgio finds his perfect and utterly predictable world threatened by the unknown.  There's Lorenzo (played by Ricky Memphis [IMDb]) who was the smartest of the group, but always something of a "nerd."  At 40, he still lives with his parents. Mamma (played by Giovanna Ralli) is content to have her son "safe at home" but Papa Luigi (played by Maurizio Mattioli) just doesn't get his son's utter lack of initiative.  There's Francesca (played by Ambra Angiolini [IMDb]) who's now the head chef at a busy Roman restaurant but also going daily to a 12-step group dealing with a compulsive sex addiction.  There's Luisa (played by Barbora Bubolova [IMDb]) a single mom who works as in the marketing department of an Italian processed food company.  In a sense she's "modern" but since works for, clearly uses and arguably "believes" in "processed food" (rather than cooking more "from scratch") this apparently makes her something of an infantile heretic in Italian society.  Even her precocious little daughter doesn't really respect her in this area ("But ma, teacher said that I'm supposed to bring a homemade cake to school ..." ;-).  There's Virgilio (played by Paolo Kessisoglu [IMDb]) who's married but ... cheating.  And he has some unfinished business with Giorgio and Giorgio's old flame from high school, Eleonora (played by Anita Caprioli [IMDb]).  Eleonora lives now in Milan and shows up only near the end of the movie, just a day or two before the test.  Still, her little role even after she arrives on the scene becomes important as well.

Much of course happens.  Most, in fact, "grow" as a result of the experience of reconnecting and studying again to take the high school graduation exam (far more demanding than what is generally expected of American high schoolers).  Most of the characters also enjoy being at least psychologically "back in high school" again.  One, Giorgio, takes it a little further, flirting by exchanging "messagini" (texting) with a current high school girl going by the nick-name Crudelia (played by Nadir Casselli).  In grand tradition of Italian cinema however, when the two do meet, it's then that Giorgio comes to his senses telling her: "It takes a 20 year old to remind you that you're approaching 40" and then falls back to acting as something of a father figure to her afterwards.

It was all very interesting and all very, very "light."  Indeed, it may surprise American viewers how "light" / "gentile" Italian comedies often are.  Everybody is generally well-dressed ("bella figura" you know ;-) but "the gritty streets of the neighborhood" so much a part of movies about Italian immigrants in the States don't seem to be much part of Italian films today (and don't seem have been part of Italian films for a long time).  Instead, there seem to be a lot of films celebrating vita (life), famiglia (family), amicizia (friendship) and so forth.

And actually, I'm not necessarily complaining.  It's actually quite nice to watch a film where pretty much everybody is smiling most of the time, people who seem happy even if at times they are sad.  It's kinda nice!


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