(director: Franklin J. Schaffner; screenwriters: Norman Steinberg/from the novel by Anne Piper; cinematographer: Fred J. Koenekamp; editor: Michael F. Anderson; music: Michael J. Lewis/John Williams; cast: Giorgio Fini (Luciano Pavarotti), Pamela Taylor (Kathryn Harrold), Henry Pollack (Eddie Albert), Sister Theresa (Paolo Baroni), Kwan (James Hong), Mei Ling (Beulah Quo), Kurt Adler (Opera Conductor), Emerson Buckley (Opera Conductor), Leona Mitchell (Opera Singer); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Peter Fetterman; MGM Home Entertainment; 1982)
“The film’s saving grace is having the late Pavarotti sing.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Franklin J. Schaffner (“Papillon”/”Planet of the Apes”/”The Boys from Brazil”) directs this lumbering adult fairy tale that is “dedicated to lovers everywhere” and modeled after those old-fashioned formulaic romantic tales in the Hollywood of the 1950s. Norman Steinberg turns in the absurd screenplay from the novel by British author Anne Piper. Legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti makes his movie acting debut in this frothy romantic musical comedy, which tries hard not to test the limited acting chops of the opera singer as it instead tests the tastes of the viewer with such a shameless spectacle. Pavarotti tries to act cool throughout. After singing at his friend’s wedding, he rides in a Rolls-Royce through his picturesque Italian village serenading a nun he rescues from a flat tire; he rides in a hot air balloon with his lover over the lush Napa Valley; he romances an American WASP with food and spirits in the borrowed mansion where an Asian couple act as chefs; and on his singing tour of the States he tries to come off as a regular guy who just happens to be a famous international singer and a smooth womanizer. The film is done in by the inane script, as even Pavarotti’s great tenor voice can’t rescue such a misstep. Reportedly it was made for $21 million but only took in $1 million upon its release.
The unconvincing love story repeatedly tells us the odd couple is deeply in love but unfortunately we can’t see that for ourselves onscreen. What we see instead is a misguided effort to make a matinee idol out of the portly opera singer, who acts with charm in a breezy manner but finds himself looking like a fish out of water trapped in an unbelievably bad plot he can’t extricate himself from. The film’s saving grace is having the late Pavarotti sing.
It features selections from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Ponchielli’s Gioconda, Donizetti’s Elisir d’Amore, Verdi’s Rigoletto (La Donna E Mobile) and, the film’s showstopper, the incomparable “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot (Pavarotti’s signature song). The 42-year-old Pavarotti’s voice was in top shape in Yes, Giorgio, as he also sings several other classical works including “Santa Lucia”, “O Sole Mio”, “Ave Maria.” In addition to Pavarotti’s version of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and the lighthearted original song by John Williams with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman “If We Were in Love”—which lost but was nominated for an Oscar.
Touring Italian opera star Giorgio Fini (Luciano Pavarotti) mysteriously loses his voice before an outdoor concert performance in Boston, and his loyal manager Henry Pollack (Eddie Albert) gets attractive throat specialist Dr. Pamela Taylor (Kathryn Harrold) to cure him of his psychosomatic ailment. When cured, the grateful smoothy tells Pamela, ”you are a thirsty plant. Fini can water you.” With a line like that the intelligent doctor naturally steps out of character and can’t resist going on a romantic fling with the married opera singer, who has two children, as he brings her to San Francisco so she can dote over him while he sings. Later Pamela’s the only one who can talk him into singing again at the prestigious New York’s Metropolitan Opera, as he refuses to sing at the Met again after he was humiliated there seven years ago because the audience laughed at him over a stage prop failure.
There were no graphic love scenes between the lovers, just a passionate food fight, nevertheless the Catholic Church in the U.S. blacklisted the film over the adultery plot line.
REVIEWED ON 2/5/2009 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/