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There’s probably a perfectly satisfactory little picture lurking within the 130-minute sprawl that is “What More Do I Want?,” the latest examination of romantic relationships from director/co-writer Silvio Soldini. The Milanese has made relatively little international impact since his big 2000 hit “Bread and Tulips” and, despite some strong performances, this so-so dramedy seems unlikely to signal an uptick in his overseas fortunes. That said, it’s easy to imagine more than respectable boxoffice in Italian-speaking territories for this strongly female-oriented picture — one that will, despite being shot in Cinemascope, play just as well on small screens as large.
There’s not really a great deal that’s actually wrong with “What More Do I Want?” (Cosa voglio di piu?) — apart from the need for editor Carlotta Cristiani to trim maybe a further half-hour. But the bland title and featureless Milan settings fit a picture that’s content to competently and unimaginatively traverse exceedingly familiar terrain.
We certainly aren’t talking “Madame Bovary” or “Brief Encounter” here, though there’s no mistaking the sensual chemistry that develops between the straying protagonists. Petite and pretty, thirtyish office-worker Anna (Alba Rohrwacher) is stuck in a cozy, unsatisfying relationship with roly poly, increasingly broody boyfriend Alessio (Fabio Troiano), an easygoing handyman who physically resembles the missing link between Kevin Smith and Michael Moore.
One day at a colleague’s going away party, Anna meets waiter Domenico (Pierfrancesco Favino), a virile, slightly older chap who’s married with two small kids. Passion’s flames are rapidly kindled and result in steamy (but never excessively explicit) motel room encounters.
The affair follows the usual pattern, from flirtation and temptation through consummation to guilt-inducing deception, building up to the inevitable revelation/confessions. The fact that the big showdown between Anna and Bruno takes place off-screen is pretty much the only element of “What More Do I Want?” that’s in any way surprising.
Soldini’s direction is decidedly safe-hands stuff, but he does elicit rock solid performances from his leads — Rohrwacher is particularly good in a tricky role — plus entertainingly scene stealing work from veteran Gisella Burinato (as Anna’s cynically acerbic aunt) and newcomer Francesca Capelli (Domenico’s likeably precocious kid.)
Overall, however, it all just isn’t enough to compensate for a script that’s much too content to go through the motions (“I can’t live without you,” etc.). The third act is a particular problem. Just as Anna and Domenico find they’ve painted themselves into a particularly inescapable corner, the movie likewise struggles towards a satisfying resolution. Soldini is offering new wine in very dusty old bottles — and it turns out to be an undistinguished vintage.
Production Companies: Lumiere & Co., Milan; Vega Film, Zurich.
Director: Silvio Soldini.
Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Pierfrancesco Favino, Giuseppe Battiston, Teresa Saponangelo, Fabio Troiano.
Screenwriters: Doriana Leondeff, Angelo Carbone & Silvio Soldini.
Producer: Lionello Cerri.
Co-producer: Ruth Waldburger.
Director of photography: Ramiro Civita.
Production designer: Paolo Bizzari.
Music: Giovanni Venosta.
Costume designer: Silvia Nebiolo.
Editor: Carlotta Cristiani.
Sales: Pyramide, Paris.
No rating, 130 minutes.
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