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Friday, April 20, 2012

CAOS CALMO / QUIET CHAOS (2008)

Italian hyphenate Nanni Moretti settles for co-scripting & starring in this superior family dramedy that falls just shy of expectations. Blame megger Antonello Grimaldi who stiffens on action scenes (even a runaway dog defeats her), but rises to the inter-personal relationships that form the story’s core. The bumpy opening finds Moretti & his glamorous kid brother (a delightful Alessandro Gassman) jumping in to rescue a couple struggling swimmers, then being all but ignored for the effort. That’s life. But an even worse lesson awaits them back home where Moretti’s wife has unexpectedly died, leaving him a single dad with a young daughter. This is where the film proper begins as Moretti goes thru a unique grieving process, taking his girl to school and spending all his time in the lovely neighboring park. Oddly, with his company in the midst of a disruptive international merger, his distancing works to everyone’s advantage. As an outsider, he’s sounding board, sage & best pal. He’s also a welcoming presence to all the park regulars and even something of a food critic at the local cafĂ©, elucidating the divide between French & Italian cuisine with a bite of broccoli. It all sounds a bit twee, but it plays in a natural, unforced style as long as Grimaldi stays within her rather narrow range; a bit of reckless driving & reckless sex don’t really convince. But identification runs high elsewhere as Moretti lightly carries the heavy subject matter, leavening this unique mourning period with more laugh-out-loud comedy than you’d think appropriate or possible. He’s a remarkable elegant performer, effortlessly pulling off impossibly fast changes in tone. And there’s a great surprise cameo near the end to wrap things up without making too neat a package or too pat an ending.

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