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Friday, November 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By John Hartl
Dysfunctional families can be pretty funny. Also ridiculous, tragic, pathetic.
Gabriele Muccino's "Remember Me, My Love" deftly covers all those bases without supplying a compelling reason for an audience to care. Selfishness is the chief driving force behind the discontented members of the middle-class Ristuccia family, who do more screaming than talking to each other.
Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) walks out on his job and flirts with an old flame (Monica Bellucci). His jealous wife, Giulia (Laura Morante), appears in a play and falls for the gay director. Their daughter (Nicoletta Romanoff) auditions for a dancer's role while throwing herself into a destructive affair. Their teenage son (Silvio Muccino, the director's younger brother) feels left out and suicidal.
They're all mocked by a narrator who sees through their games and generates zero empathy. It's left to the actors to bring the characters to life which they do with surprising frequency. As foolish as these people are, they have their vulnerable moments, and the actors all but leap at these opportunities to redeem the family.
Still, the most soulful performance comes from an actress cast as an outsider: Bellucci, who played Mary Magdalene in "The Passion of the Christ" and the title role in the Oscar-nominated "Malèna." Her scenes with Bentivoglio are the most poignant in the film, which ends with a question mark about their relationship.
Muccino had a minor art-house hit a couple of years ago with "The Last Kiss," which somehow managed to make a stronger case for a similarly self-absorbed group of characters. He's lost none of his storytelling skill or his instinct for placing the camera where it belongs (Marcello Montarsi did the fluid cinematography), but the people in "Remember Me, My Love" evaporate the minute the lights come up.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
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