Monday, June 03, 2013

Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto, 2008) and Salt of Life (Gianni e le donne, 2011) ***

They don’t make many movies for adults, and they make even fewer for middle-aged and elderly people.  This pair of Italian comedies, by writer, director, and star Gianni Di Gregorio, helps to remedy that.  The wry humor in these completely grown-up films is slow-paced, but very charming.
“Mid-August Lunch” introduces us to Gianni, an Italian man probably in his fifties, unemployed and living in Rome with his elderly mother.  With no way to keep up with their bills, they are threatened with eviction from their condo, but Gianni sips his white wine and carries himself with a resigned good humor that is at the same time depressive and somehow almost Buddhist.  Gianni is a gourmet cook who seems content to care for his mother and slouch along from one meal to the next, although he doesn’t relish the possibility of losing his home.  Salvation comes when his condo manager offers to erase their debts if Gianni will care for the manager’s elderly Mom over a holiday weekend.  Then things snowball, until Gianni finds himself caretaker for four grumpy, elderly ladies in a suddenly cramped apartment.  Gianni’s good-natured acceptance of the situation, and the women’s gradual acceptance of each others’ company is funny and heartwarming.
“Salt of Life” picks up with Gianni perhaps a year or so later. He is still this sort of sad-sack, drinking his wine and cooking fine meals.  His mom has moved to a home where she has other old women around for company, and Gianni now shares his apartment with his daughter and ex-wife (!).  His life changes when his friend pushes him to find a girlfriend.  Gianni’s sex life has been in hibernation, but finally he starts to notice all the gorgeous Italian girls in his life, and he clumsily starts flirting.  It’s a little odd to see this old, out-of-shape, penniless guy hitting on young women, but it’s a funny movie, nonetheless.  Gianni Di Gregorio may be schlubby, but he has an amazing screen presence, and the girls are pretty easy on the eyes.
If one of these movies bumped into a Michael Bay film, there would probably be a massive release of energy as the two polar opposites destroyed each other.  These movies are fairly quiet, with subtle humor.  They are fun to watch, however, if you are in the mood for a foreign, artsy film.

Both films, 3 stars out of 5