Made in Italy

At the Movies Blog

Liam Neeson and his son (in real life, and in this film).

I got excited that there was a new Neesons movie. I made the name plural in both honor of Key & Peele’s hysterical valet parking characters that got overly excited by the movies of Liam Neeson, yet always seemed to add an “s” to his last name. But since this also stars Liam’s son you could say it is a “Neesons movie” (even though technically, his last name is Richardson).

Actor James D’Arcy (Dunkirk) has stepped behind the camera for the first time, and it’s with disastrous results. Perhaps a screenwriter should have been hired.

Now, it’s not like you’re sitting there watching a complete trainwreck. There’s nice cinematography (but really, how can you make Tuscany landscapes look bad?). There’s a decent score. But literally everything in this movie is cliche, predictable, and not how people act. Literally every scene where two people interacted with each other, I found myself thinking those two people wouldn’t act that way. It could be a father and son with a strained relationship on a road trip, getting under each other’s skin. It could be a guy saying the wrong name of the woman he just slept with, and her running out in anger. Or a gorgeous cook that owns a restaurant, falling for a guy she just met, that doesn’t have the least bit of charm or good looks. A real estate agent that’s going to act nasty because of how a house looks. A couple coming to look at the house, and acting like 12-year-olds giggling, and commenting on how disgusting certain things are, only to get the seller angry enough to tell them they’re wrong and kick them out. Oh, I could go on telling you about each of the awful scenes.

So, here’s the story. On the same weekend the best movie of the year comes out (The Burnt Orange Heresy), this too, deals with a reclusive artist. Robert Foster (Neeson) is an artist that seems content to pull canvas tight in the sheets now, not with his paints. His son (real-life son Michael Richardson) is happy running a gallery in London, until his soon-to-be ex-wife shows up at a successful event, to snarkily say he won’t have that job much longer (another scene that isn’t even remotely how a couple would talk to each other). Her family is going to sell the gallery, and he convinces her to wait a month, hoping he can buy it. Since he and his dad both own a house his late mom Rafaella’s rich family had — he figures they can sell it and he’ll have the funds. When they arrive, we see the place is decrepit. That means we get about seven attempts at comedy (a racoon in a cabinet, holes in the roof, a door falling over, brown water out of faucets, etc). Looking at the size of the house, the amount of property, and the view,  it’s hard not to figure how that wouldn’t sell for millions, even in that state. But this is a movie, so they had to go all “money pit” on the structure, again mining for humor. 

Gorgeous restaurant owner (Valeria Billelo) has always been in love with the house, and…why wouldn’t she love a brooding young guy who shows up in her restaurant? Of course she would. It’s what happens in movies. Especially when she and her daughter show up to help him paint, and they can all be playful with each other.

Father and son constantly go at each other, and the memories in the house bring up some wounds for both. It’s a shame the kid doesn’t have the talent his dad has. He just looks like a mopey genXer with a bottle of booze by the fire pit, complaining about boarding school and nothing of his mom being left in the house. He also has this air of arrogance that doesn’t suit the character well. Aren’t we supposed to root for him, or…at least see why the woman would fall for him?

They tried so hard for there to be emotional impacts, but the only moment that got me was finding out how the woman died — and having it remind me of their real tragedy with Natasha Richardson in the skiing accident. 

The plot is so thin, it had my mind wondering and wishing…that his son would be kidnapped by his new love’s ex-husband, and dad would have to use his “special set of skills” to get him back.

This movie wasn’t the least bit touching, the comedy and drama elements didn’t work at all, and Liam’s kid isn’t much of an actor. But who needs that special set of skills at acting, when nepotism works just fine in Hollywood? Or, in this case, Italy.

1 star out of 5.

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