Made in Italy (2020)

FATHER-SON FIASCO: THIS FILM SHOULD HAVE BEEN A DRAMA

There are so many ways to write this review so let’s briefly create and analyse some sub-headings, to be expanded on down the page:

  1. If Micheal Richardson was a horse being sold at a yearling sale, his pedigree would ensure he brought bids above $1 million
  2. This is the worst casting in a film I may have seen
  3. Considering the tragic circumstances of their own wife-mother’s death, Liam Neeson and Richardson should have been much more exposed and real
  4. It is very difficult to write comedy
  5. This comedy should have been a drama
  6. Actors who decide to have a try as writer-director need a producer to tell them when they need a co-writer
  7. Perhaps the biography will have real life consequences and Micheal Richardson will look for another job?
DUNCAN

Made in Italy (2020) tells of Jack (Micheal Richardson) who needs money to buy an art gallery from his ex-wife’s family. He enlists his estranged famous painter-father Robert (Liam Neeson) to help enliven his only asset, a Tuscan palazzo which has been allowed to wither since the car accident death of the two’s mother-wife Raffaella. While trying to renovate then sell the house, romantic possibilities emerge in the shape of Natalia (Valeria Bilello) for Jack and, more subtly, Kate (Lindsay Duncan) for Robert.

During this we learn the circumstances of Raffaella’s death; why Robert no longer paints for the public; how the father shut off the then seven-year-old son from the pain, thus ensuring repressed grief; and eventual reconnection of father and son.

1 PEDIGREE

Micheal Richardson, bay colt 1995

By Liam Neeson (Oscar-nominated for Schindler’s List) out of NATASHA RICHARDSON (Tony-award winner for Cabaret) by TONY RICHARDSON (A Taste of Honey, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Oscar winner Best Film, Best Director Tom Jones) out of VANESSA REDGRAVE (Oscar winner for  Julia) by Sir Michael Redgrave (Oscar-nominated for Mourning Becomes Electra and British theatre legend)

This would be the beginning of the catalogue page for the thoroughbred yearling Micheal Richardson if he was sold at auction. The kid’s bred in the purple. However, in Made in Italy he is hopelessly out of his depth trying to fuse writer-director James D’Arcy’s vision of a comedy-drama which becomes neither.

2 CASTING

Thus it is the worst casting mistake I have seen in a movie – and I saw Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly (1970) which coincidentally was directed by Micheal’s grandfather, Tony Richardson.

Father in life and film, Liam Neeson doesn’t do a whole lot better and the film is redeemed only by the subtlety and talent of female lead Bilello and supporting player Duncan.

3 TRAGEDY

NATASHA RICHARDSON

Natasha Richardson died in 2009 of epidural haematoma due to blunt impact to the head. It was days after a skiing accident in Calgary, Canada and, even more tragically, Richardson kept insisting she was all right and checking herself out of medical care. Her son Micheal was 13 years old.

Considering Made in Italy recaptures some similar circumstances it was disappointing to see father and son unable to give more emotional performances. Perhaps they too blamed the writing and direction (see 6).

4 COMEDY

If you don’t realise how hard it is to write really good comedy, go onto Netflix, Stan, Binge or any of the others and look up the genre. The complete shite that exists under this banner will appal you.

For some reason – and I blame the cleverness and success of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) – British film makers want to make comedy movies which appeal to an older audience. Made in Italy is another piece to join this unfunny, modern list.

The gags weren’t funny and were certainly poorly expressed by silly old Jack.

Films (usually American made) seem to telegraph what is about to happen. This film sent it by Twitter. It was embarrassing in its dumbing down.

5 DRAMA

Apropos 4, I suppose this target audience doesn’t want to see a downer but this film would have worked as a drama. It would have needed a different male cast, a team of re-write personnel and a different director but, like the film’s palazzo, it had “good bones.”

The dramatic version of this would have not had Robert as a cliché artistic recluse-womaniser and Jack as a wimpy something-or-other. At one point he tells Natalia that 50 per cent of kids these days cry when they drop an ice-cream. Jack comes across as just such a kid.

The bones were there and the flesh gradually added to it if heart-wrenching feelings could have been released by both male leads.

6 WRITER-DIRECTOR

James D’Arcy has a good acting CV. He played historic British military men in Dunkirk (2017) and Master and Commander (2003); was Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock (2012); and had major television roles in Broadchurch, Homeland and Das Boot.

Good on him for having a go at writing and directing his own feature but, for one making a debut at the crafts, it appears he had no editor. Allowed too free a hand, the inexperience shows because the result is woeful.

7 WHERE DOES MICHEAL GO?

Made in Italy follows a pretty biographical line and perhaps this will continue for Micheal Richardson? In the film, Jack realises that wanting a gallery is not what he wanted. Reconnecting with family is his hidden desire.

My recommendation: Let life imitate art and stop acting. Unfortunately, it could get worse? It has been announced he will play Michael Collins in a mooted production, The Rising: Michael Collins, a part his father played in the 1996 film, Michael Collins.

Score: 2

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