Director/Screenwriter Paolo Genovese reveals what’s “inside the black box” in this clever and entertaining dramedy.
When a woman suggests a party game at a dinner party with her husband and five friends, it becomes a game of “chicken” that nobody really wants to play but nobody can say “no” to. It’s a game I surely wouldn’t be interested in playing: Put your cell phone in the middle of the dining room table and share all calls and messages with everyone there. Once it’s suggested, nobody has the guts to admit it’s a bad idea, and all the while, the friends eat, talk, and wait for a lunar eclipse that is looming over the apartment like a cloak of misfortune that’s waiting to engulf every hope for a happy outcome.
What could go wrong? I’ll give you a minute to think about what’s on your “black box”, as Rocco (Marco Giallini) calls it, and if you’d want all of your friends and family to be privy to it. Would you all still be friends at the end of a game like this one?
The evening’s hosts, Eva (Kasia Smutniak) and Rocco share a rocky marriage, teenage daughter and damaging secrets, one that comes out early in the evening. Rocco has been in therapy for six months but never told his therapist wife about it. “I decided that if we split up we need to be able to say we tried everything”, he tells her.
Newlyweds Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher) and Cosimo (Edoardo Leo) seem earnest and confident until a text comes in from Bianca’s ex and Cosimo insists on her calling him back with the phone on speaker, so that he can hear what she’s “hiding”. Lele (Valerio Mastandrea) and Carlotta (Anna Foglietta), with two little ones at home seem the most vulnerable from the get go, but Beppe (Giuseppe Battiston), who’s arrived without the new girlfriend that everyone is dying to meet ends up having more to lose than almost anyone else.
It’s funny; I started out watching the friends’ evening together, wishing I could be their friend too, but it wasn’t long before the “perfection” of the relationships started to reveal its imperfections, and its dark side. They say everybody’s normal until you get to know them, but how well do you have to get to know someone before you really, really know him? And do you even want to know him that well?
Paolo Genovese’s cunningly crafted a really smart screenplay with authentic dialogue (extremely authentically delivered by the actors) and opens up a messy can of worms that’s both surprising and perfectly understandable at the same time. The questions are obvious, “What happens if our deepest, darkest secrets are uncovered and do we make ourselves too vulnerable by keeping them on these devices?”
The answers are obvious too, but most of us don’t even want to know.
I know I don’t. Thank you, Paolo, for reminding me to keep the pass code on my iPhone!