I have a love/hate relationship with Cinepanettone in the way that I love and hate Lifetime Movies. As the expression goes, they are both “so bad they’re good” and the kind of thing many people don’t like to admit that they watch. I have no problem admitting my infatuation with either of them.
The Cinepanettone that I was first introduced to usually starred somebody like Christian De Sica or Massimo Boldi, had lots of boob jokes and seemed more bedroom farce than Christmas movie; but what did I know? That’s why Paolo Genovese’s Una Famiglia Perfetta, one that seemed more like ‘Bad Santa’ than ‘Natale a New York’ threw me a curve. From the first scene, in which “Papà”, Leone, played by Sergio Castellitto, tells the youngest son that he is fat, hates his glasses, and he says he doesn’t understand why he has to spend Christmas with a son who is so fat and ugly, I was horrified/mesmerized.
Because I’d seen the trailer and read the previews, I knew that Leone, though abusive, was not an abusive parent, but rather an abusive employer. The wealthy and mysterious Leone had hired everybody in the house to play parts, pretending to be his “perfect family” for the holidays. A beautiful wife (Claudia Gerini), a loving mother and brother (Marco Giallini), and three (three and a half, or four, depending on how you look at it) children doted on Leone and were paid to do it; missteps were not tolerated.
This dark comedy couldn’t be more different from Genovese’s earlier films like ‘Immaturi’ and, although I think I enjoyed his 2010 Christmas offering ‘La Banda Dei Babbi Natale’ better, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with La Famiglia Perfetta. Despite a part in the middle when the “family” goes to church and I couldn’t help wondering if their night would ever end, I was pretty consistently engaged.
Sergio Castellitto’s acerbity may have been a little too extreme, but then again, the creepiness of his intensity was not boring. Claudia Gerini, well she’s just great; she’s beautiful, funny, and a natural actress.
Lauren and I left the theater, our eyes wide and our mouths hanging open, not even sure how to start talking about Una Familglia Perfetta. It’s a sign that there’s a change in the wind as far as Italian comedies go, and in a good way. That’s for certain.