Writer/Director Cristina Comencini has been at this for a long time with great success, having written novels and screenplays, and directed films like the award-winning Don’t Tell (La Bestia Nel Cuore), but her newest film, Latin Lover, exceedes every expectation.
Golden era film star Saverio Crispo has been dead for 10 years and his eclectic and complicated family has planned a memorial for him in his Puglian hometown. Crispo, who “left a lot outside of the scene”, collected wives, lovers, and children from all of his movies. Two widows and five daughters (six?) gathered for an uncomfortable family reunion in the family estate, rehashing old grievances and uncovering secrets. Though the daughters all had different mothers and different nationalities, they shared names that began with the letter “S”, a sort of “factory label”, explained Saverio.
This is one of the best ensemble comedies I have seen in years, and Comencini’s dialogue is spot on. Virna Lisi (in her last performance before her death in December 2014), Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Human Capital), Candela Peña (All About My Mother) and Angela Finocchiaro (Benvenuto al Sud) couldn’t be more natural as mother and sisters airing old slights, and though their family dynamics are unconventional, they seem real. Saverio himself, who never really understood why all those women were so crazy about him, is played by Francesco Scianna (Baarìa) who evokes old fashioned movie swoons from everyone in the film and us in the audience as well.
Latin Lover is funny and heartwarming, and the recreated vintage movie scenes are too much fun for words. Dedicated to the memory of Lisi, this film couldn’t have been a better tribute to the movie star and her golden era.