Make me an offer
THE FAMILY FRIEND/ L’AMICO DI FAMIGLIA Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Starring Giacomo Rizzo, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Laura Chiatti Club, IFI, Dublin, 103 min
PAOLO Sorrentino’s The Consequences of Love, a sleek thriller in various shades of grey, revealed its director to have a good eye for the type of glossy image that fits well into car commercials or pop videos. The film was, however, somewhat short on narrative fibre.
The Family Friend meanders through similar territory to its predecessor – crime, loneliness, casual surrealism – but manages to dig up a gripping story and people it with intriguing, colourful characters. Those who can withstand the unforgiving coolness of the project should get along quite nicely with it.
The film follows the misadventures of an elderly moneylender as he exploits the vulnerable inhabitants of a provincial town a short distance from Rome. Giacomo Rizzo makes quite a beast out of Geremia Di Geremei. Carrying about many folds of skin on his dead calf of a head, the bitter old man, who lives in unnecessary squalor with his obese mother, has developed a lucrative line in lending out funds to families planning elaborate weddings.
Nemesis is triggered when one troubled father, distraught at his inability to make the payments, invites his creditor, who moonlights as a tailor, into the bride’s bedroom to, ahem, make an adjustment to the wedding dress. Shortly thereafter, Geremia agrees to make an enormous loan to a group of entrepreneurs in the bidet business. His gruesome fornications with the bride-to-be and his financial impropriety are woven together in a denouement that, though confusing, has the satisfactory twistiness one might expect from a David Mamet script.
The Family Friend does occasionally exhibit a tendency towards mannered eccentricity. But this remains an impressively assured piece of work that belies careful planning and a sure confidence of tone. It confirms that – in defiance of an arch remark made by one of the characters – there is still considerable vibrancy in the Italian film industry.