Excellent Rizzo ends up papering over the cracks

The Family Friend (15) Directed by Paolo Serrentino Starring Giacomo Rizzo, Fabrivio Bentivoglio and Laura Chiatti Italian, English subtitles 99 mins Three star rating AT the start of any movie there is hope. Even in the dullest, most predictable movies,

The Family Friend (15) Directed by

Paolo Serrentino

Starring Giacomo Rizzo, Fabrivio Bentivoglio

and Laura Chiatti


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Italian, English subtitles

99 mins

Most Read

Three star rating

AT the start of any movie there is hope. Even in the dullest, most predictable movies, there is a brief period at the start when everything is still possible. The tone, the style, the story, the quality - it's all up for grabs. It may last less than a minute, but it's still a precious time, often the best bit of a movie.

A wise director will try to hold onto it for as long as possible. But I have to say that Paolo Sorrento may be over-doing it trying to keep it going for almost an entire movie.

It's 23 minutes in before we discover that our central character is Geremia de Geremei - a friendless, loveless Euro-pinching moneylender in an Italian coastal town who deludes himself, at least occasionally, that he is

good-hearted.

But, even after that is established, the film seems determined to keep its options open. Its shifting perspectives and elliptical narrative means we are never really sure what these characters, or this movie, is capable of.

For veteran actor Rizzo, being cast as Geremei is something of a poisoned chalice. It's a storming role, one that calls on him to be salacious, comic, pathetic, pitiful and evil. It may come as some final reward for a lengthy career that has included roles in such indignities as The Sexbury Tales, Three Stooges Vs. The Wonder Women, Erotic Exploits Of Sexy Seducer and Bertolucci's 1900.

The downside is that the defining aspect of his character is an often expressed physical repulsiveness.

In the film, he resembles a theatre actor in full Fagin make-up. He has a protruding lower jaw that looks like his face set halfway through a werewolf transformation. You hope for the sake of the man's self-esteem that it was just

a matter of Serrentino being an expert at finding unflattering angles.

It's a great role and a great performance but the quality of the film is ultimately less certain. Serrentino's challenging style is intriguing and his film is filled with strange and lovely moments but is possibly all a bit too much. Intense concentration is needed to keep up with a film that never lets you settle, that is constantly trying to catch you off guard. I like that it is such a demanding watch. But it is a bit like trying to play Find the Lady for an hour

and a half.

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