July 12, 2010
July 13, 2010
Here in Columbus, we manage to get some rather obscure independent and foreign films, thanks in part to the Wexner Center for the Arts that operates a theater on the Ohio State University campus, as well as the Gateway Film Center a few blocks to the south.
This past Saturday, my husband and I took a chance on “Mid-August Lunch” at the on-campus theater. Our experience there has been pretty mixed. We always sit close to the fire exit to beat a quiet but hasty retreat from what’s simply unwatchable. That happens approximately half the time. As for the rest, the offerings range from the not-intolerable to the downright wonderful.
“Mid-August Lunch” falls into the latter category.
Briefly, here’s what happens. A middle-aged Italian bachelor, Gianni, takes care of his ninety-something mother. The two owe money to everyone, including the superintendent of their condominium in a sleepy neighborhood in Rome.
The super, pining for a weekend away from his wife and family with his much-younger mistress, will forgive Gianni’s debt to the condo association if Gianni takes care of the super’s mother for a night or two.
New York Times review, Gianni finds himself with a houseful of four elderly women who quickly bond over some delicious-looking meals. A couple of them have quite a bit of money, so by the end, Gianni holds a wad of cash in his hand and the promise of a new career as cook and caretaker for a band of lively senior citizens.
Obviously, plot isn’t the strong suit here.
What I love about this movie is that there are no rappin’ grannies with foul mouths texting their BFFs, trolling the Internet for hook-ups, or coming on to men young enough to be their grandsons. Just people who act their age, having acquired both wisdom and regrets without the benefit of Botox, plastic surgery, or too much vanity, beyond simple make up and a single brassy wig. And what faces the women have—wrinkled, spotted, supple.
When Gianni announces that it’s time for his charges to go home, the women’s expressions are priceless.
“It too sudden,” Gianni’s mother exclaims.
Hopefully, that’s what she really said, not words some subtitler put in her mouth. It’s a line that speaks not only to how quickly her circumstances have changed, but also to how soon the party that has only just started—and perhaps her life itself—is about to be over.
As a writer, I live for tiny nuggets like that, a single piece of dialogue that tells an entire story.
As the final credits roll, Gianni and his companions dance together. And guess what? They’re natural, rhythmic, light on their feet.
In this season of summer blockbusters, I hardly expected to find a story so small, so specifically observed that it’s finally universal. And judging by the fact that the theater was full, there’s still an audience for thin slices of decidedly human lives like this one.
BTW, here’s a link to some trailers, in case you’re interested.