Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Family, food, art and renovation fuel a sweet/ sad story in James D'Arcy's MADE IN ITALY

One of those feel-good movies that boasts a beautiful location (Tuscany), a big star (Liam Neeson) surrounded by excellent supporting players, and an estranged father/son story (with a deceased mother right out of the Disney cannon).

If you can't quickly figure out where MADE IN ITALY is going, you are probably somewhat new to the notion of the motion picture experience.

On the other, more productive hand, if you'd be interested in something to take you away from the threat of Covid-19, the idiocy of Donald Trump, and wherever the next big hurricane/tropical storm might be headed, this just might be the best medicine currently available.

As written and directed by noted actor James D'Arcy (shown at right, this is his first full-length film), Made in Italy  proves consistently lovely to look at, with dialog that -- if it doesn't exactly sparkle -- has at least enough intelligence and wit to keep your ears open and willing to continue, and it offers enough back story, incident and momentum to bring its tale home with a few mini-surprises that hold boredom at bay.

If all of the above sounds like "damning with faint praise," it is not. The experience of watching Made in Italy is probably as close as one can come these days to taking a gorgeous, enjoyable and safe vacation.

D'Arcy's plot has to do with the fractured relationship between Robert, a blocked-artist father (Neeson, above), and his son Jack (Micheál Richardson, shown below), who runs a London art gallery which is about to be sold out from under his control. The two still own a villa in Italy that, were they to fix it up and then sell it, could help Jack buy that gallery. Complications ensue.

Along the way to fixing up what is indeed a gorgeous villa in dire need of repair, dad and son encounter a couple of local women who prove invaluable to them and to the story. Lindsay Duncan (below, right) plays her usual strong, smart, classy character as the local real estate agent who helps the pair ready the house for sale,

while the beautiful Italian actress Valeria Bilello (below, from Honey and Sense8) takes the plum role of the local chef and restaurateur who provides some good food, romance and design suggestions for our boys.

It's all, if not quite paint-by-numbers, close enough for you to figure out most of it. But as you'll be sitting there enjoying the scenery and fine performances, TrustMovies suspects you won't mind much at all. Neeson is, as ever, very good, and it is particularly nice to see him in something other than an action film again. The whole shebang proves a thoroughly professional job, so I'll look forward to the next movie that Mr. D'Arcy writes and/or directs.

From IFC Films, running 93 minutes and in mostly English (with a few lines of English-subtitled Italian now and again), Made in Italy opens in theaters and via VOD this Friday, August 7 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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