MADE IN ITALY
(director/writer: James D’Arcy; cinematographer: Mike Eley; editors: Mark Day/Anthony Boys; music: Alex Belcher; cast: Liam Neeson (Robert), Micheál Richardson (Jack), Lindsay Duncan (Kate), Yolanda Kettle (Ruth), Valeria Bilello (Natalia), Gian Marco Tavani (Marzio), Helena Antonio (Raffaella) Marco Quaglia (Luigi); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Pippa Cross, Sam Tipper-Hale; IFC Films; 2020)
“Has a falseness about it that can’t hide behind its lush Tuscan scenic views.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
James D’Arcy bombs in his first feature as a writer-director in this sappy and cliché-filled family drama set in Italy, that has a falseness about it that can’t hide behind its lush Tuscan scenic views.
It features Irish action-pic actor Liam Neeson as a prickly struggling London bohemian artist, once a promising one, and his real-life 25-year-old son, Micheál Richardson, who is miscast playing Neeson’s thirty-year-old estranged son, a successful London art gallery manager, about to divorce the gallery owner’s daughter and losing some of his shine.
In 2009 Neeson’s Brit actress wife, Natasha Richardson, the mother of Micheál, died in a car accident. The son took her last name as a tribute to her.
The father Robert (Liam Neeson) and his son Jack (Micheál Richardson), estranged for the last twenty years, travel to Tuscan to sell a house neither has ever seen but both Robert and Jack inherited equal shares from Robert’s late wife and Jack’s late mother (Helena Antonio). Seeing the house disappoints, since it’s in need of costly repairs as a fixer upper. The Brit-born real estate broker (Lindsay Duncan), located in Italy, doubts if it could be sold as is, especially in the short time the money-starved men want it sold. Her only word of reassurance is that at least the plumbing is good.
To answer the question if it could be sold and if the men can get a fresh start on their lives, comes with a number of wincing story contrivances. This is a dull and sentimental sudser to have such a soft landing spot. It turns mawkish when Jack visits the town and runs into the saucy Natalia (Valeria Bilello), the local chef known for her “mamma mia” risotto, love for her daughter and hatred for her ex. At that point you can picture Jack not only inheriting a house but an instant family, and a still competitive Robert hoping he can snatch the beauty away from his son.
The wack film should send Liam quickly back into the action-pic genre film arena. But kudos must go to Liam for at least trying hard to act his chops off over such crap.
REVIEWED ON 8/14/2020 GRADE: C