Whatsoeverly -- Film Review
Giulio Manfredonia's big-screen adaptation of the television character comedian Antonio Albanese created lags over an hour and a half.
With corruption and sex scandals at an outrageous high in Italian politics, Giulio Manfredonia’s Whatsoeverly is too soft in its political satire, and too regional in its humor, to have much of an impact on foreign audiences, despite inclusion in the Berlinale program. Local filmgoers, however, are lapping it up. In its first week, the filmearned over ten million euros and the top box office slot, thanks to the popularity of gifted comedian Antonio Albanese and his broad television and film following.
Whatsoeverly is the big-screen debut of a TV character Albanese created in 2003: Cetto Laqualunque (whose last name literally means “The whatever”), a crude, amoral businessman who represents the worst kind of Italian “everyman” from the south. But like most leaps of its kind, what’s biting and concise in 10-minute comedy sketches can lag over an hour and a half.
And with current events in the country far outstripping the machinations in the film, it’s hard not to yearn for a sharper political edge to the broad humor, which is interestingly tinged with moments of melancholy. Underneath it all, the filmmakers have made a requiem to democracy in Italy.
The garishly dressed, foul-mouthed Cetto returns to Calabria with a sexy companion and child in tow, four years after fleeing to South America to avoid tax evasion charges at home. His son welcomes him home, his wife threatens to kill his mistress, and his cronies inform him times have changed, and that the government no longer turns a blind eye to the illegal construction and tax finagling (just some of the crimes for which Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is accused) that made him filthy rich. They convince Cetto that the only way to save their town from “immoral law abiders” is to run for mayor himself.
The rest of the film builds on Cetto’s dirty electoral campaign, the slogan of which roughly translates to “More snatch for everyone.” Cetto openly promises to find jobs for all those who vote for him and screw over all those who don’t, and flies in an “expert” campaign manager (actor-director Sergio Rubini) to ensure his victory on no political platform whatsoever.
Albanese has always said that his character isn’t based on Berlusconi, but is rather a parody of the stereotypes of the Calabrian people and their dialect, which will be lost abroad. Cetto’s proclivity for turning any word into an adverb – hence the film’s title – will be especially hard to translate.
The look of Whatsoeverly does get the tone across though – the gaudy costumes, big hair, flashy jewelry and baroquely kitschy interiors are like a depiction of hell, in caricatured Italian-American style. Costume designer Roberto Chiocchi went particularly wild with Cetto’s wife (Lorenza Indovina), whose outfits range from leopard-print to ball gowns that look like Cinderella on acid.
Performance-wise, Albanese obviously knows his character inside and out and pulls off even the most deplorable lines with great matter-of-factness. The usually solid Rubini spends most of his time doing tai chi in overly long sequences, while Salvatore Cantalupo, who gave the most riveting turn in Gomorrah, is wasted in the tiny role of Cetto’s upstanding mayoral opponent.
Sales company: Fandango Portobello Sales
Production companies: Fandango, RAI Cinema
Cast: Antonio Albanese, Sergio Rubini, Lorenza Indovina, Salvatore Cantalupo, Nicola Rignanese, Davide Giordano, Mario Cordova, Luigi Maria Burruano
Director: Giulio Manfredonia
Screenwriters: Antonio Albanese, Piero Guerrera, Giulio Manfredonia
Producer: Domenico Procacci
Director of photography: Roberto Forza
Production designer: Marco Belluzzi
Music: Banda Osiris
Costume designer: Roberto Chiocchi
Editor: Cecilia Zanuso
No rating, 93 minutes