‘Alaska’: Rome Review

Alaska - H
Rome Film Fest

Strong performances and plenty of ambition cannot overcome a scenario that takes too many unlikely turns.

Elio Germano (‘Leopardi’) and Astrid Berges-Frisbey (‘I Origins’) play star-crossed Franco-Italian lovers in Claudio Cupellini’s sweeping romantic drama.

A romantic drama that aims to be as vast and breathtaking as the U.S. state it’s been named after, Alaska marks a worthy though only partially satisfying attempt by Italian filmmaker Claudio Cupellini to tell a good ol’ fashioned love story on an extremely broad canvas.

Jumping between Paris and Milan, prison and high fashion, sex, guns and death, the movie gets points for its sweeping earnestness and heartfelt performances from stars Elio Germano and Astrid Berges-Frisbey, but suffers under a heavy-duty narrative that grows increasingly implausible as the plot thickens. After a premiere at the Rome Film Festival, it should play decently to local audiences, with possibilities for overseas interest despite an expansive two-hour-plus running time.

Not all couples meet like Italian bad boy Fausto (Germano) and French beauty Nadine (Berges-Frisbey). While the latter is on her first modeling audition, she runs into the former at the five-star Parisian hotel where he works as a waiter. Doing his best to impress, Fausto takes Nadine—who’s wearing only a bra, panties and a duffle coat—upstairs to a 15,000-euro suite. But they wind up being surprised by the room’s occupant, who Fausto impulsively beats the crap out of. Then he lands in jail.

All of this happens within the first 10 minutes, so one wonders how Cupellini and co-writers Filippo Gravino and Guido Iuculano will keep things going for the next two hours. The answer: even more crazy plot twists and turns, taking the couple from France, where they reunite after Fausto’s two-year prison stretch, to Italy, where Nadine has become a successful model while her boyfriend partners up with aging party boy Sandro (Valerio Binasco) to open a chic new nightclub from which the film takes its title.

The road the two lovebirds set out on is a bumpy one indeed, and each character receives their fair share of punishment: Fausto in the form of a nasty beating and betrayal; Nadine via a car accident that leaves her leg, and career, in shambles. The question is whether they’ll be able to stand the test of time and stay together, and the film definitely goes the long way around the bend to provide an answer, with a final act that doubles down on the drama and loses a fair share of its credibility in the process.

Despite some eye-rolling plot points, Alaska coasts along smoothly enough on the charisma of its two lead players. Germano—who won the equivalent of Italy’s Oscar last year for the biopic Leopardiis bursting with energy and edginess, turning Fausto into a likeable guy who can lose his cool at any moment. Berges-Frisbey (I Origins) is also memorable as a girl who can’t get by on much more than her good looks, and who finds herself facing a life of mediocrity if Fausto doesn’t step in to save her.

Cupellini already showcased his chops for his award-winning debut, A Quiet Life, as well as on several episodes of the TV version of Gomorrah. He brings plenty of style to the proceedings, working with DP Gergely Poharnok (Taxidermia) to craft a slick urban fable bathed in glowing, widescreen allure. Making strong use of real locations— including the prison where Fausto befriends a French killer/foodie (Roschdy Zem)—the country-hopping co-production works on a logistical level, as well as on a linguistic one (both actors do fine in the other's language). A rollercoaster score from Pasquale Catalano rises and falls with the story, while also mimicking its tendency to overreach.

Production companies: Indiana Production, Rai Cinema
Cast: Elio Germano, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Valerio Binasco, Elena Radonicich, Roschdy Zem
Director: Claudio Cupellini
Screenwriters: Filippo Gravino, Guido Iuculano, Claudio Cupellini
Producers: Fabrizio Donvito, Benedetto Habib, Marco Cohen
Director of photography: Gergely Poharnok
Production designer: Paki Meduri
Costume designer: Mariano Tufano
Editor: Giuseppe Trepiccione
Composer: Pasquale Catalano
Casting directors: Jorgelina Depetris Pochintesta, Michael Laguens
Sales agent: Films Distribution

No rating, 125 minutes