I’d always wanted to see what Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie would be like in a non-comedic romantic role. Well, this wasn’t it, just in case you’re wondering. But it’s close.
Bret’s body double -also known as Micheál Richardson- plays Jack, an art gallery owner. After his wife not only leaves him but threatens to take away his gallery, Jack decides to try and sell his family’s old Italian villa to buy the gallery from his ex. The problem is it’s co-owned by his dysfunctional dad Robert, played by Liam Neeson, who happens to be both his on-screen and off-screen dad.
I was really interested to see how this father-son duo would vibe on screen. I mean, these match-ups can be either great or catastrophic. Personally, I give a ton of kudos to actors who will work with their real-life parents. As it turns out, Liam and Micheál are neither great or catastrophic. They’re okay. Maybe bordering on cringey at times. But this I attribute to some pretty abominable scriptwriting.
What the story tries to convey is that father and son are extremely estranged. But their tension is so on-the-nose that there were times I wished Liam would’ve resorted to his role in Taken and just let Jack get kidnapped. I won’t spoil why they’re estranged because if I do, it’ll pretty much mean there are no secrets or hidden nuances to their relationship for you to discover.
Anyway, things get a little better when the supporting characters turn up. They’re all played as brilliantly as the script will allow. And although this isn’t much, I was still able to enjoy these characters. There’s Kate (Lindsay Duncan), the dry-humoured real estate agent. And of course Natalia, the gorgeous, funny, amazingly talented chef who is conveniently single. And my favourites of all, the trio of Italian handymen whose chaos and cacophony I immediately understood without knowing a single word of what they were saying.
In fact, if Made in Italy does anything well, it’s that it captures everything you’d want from a film set in Tuscany: the landscape, the romance, the feeling of disheveled beauty. And those pencil-thin trees that extend far into the sky …so iconic in every Tuscan countryside. One of my unexpected favourite bits was a scene in the village where the entire community comes out to enjoy an outdoor movie and there’s not a whole lot of anything going on at all. It made me feel like I was people-watching in a non-creepy sort of way.
But these authentic moments feel too few and far between. I’m a sucker for foreign movies and I came in ready to love it. Unfortunately, the film’s let down by too many moments of awkward dialogue and predictable outcomes. I don’t know how many times a scene would start and I’d think, “Oh, I know what’s going to happen here….yep…and…there it is.”
I mean, on the whole, it’s not a terrible time. But it’s not a particularly great time either. Although one thing should be said… I did come away hungry for fresh pasta, so maybe in the end, it did something right.