Kryptonite!: Rome Film Review

Light-weight family comedy set in swinging Naples is coy but unfocused.

One of four Italian films in competition at the fest, screenwriter Ivan Cotroneo's directorial debut follows a young boy navigating the choppy waters of living in a dysfunctional family.

A minor Italian comedy blessed with a first-class cast, Kryptonite! strains to capture the atmosphere of Naples in its psychedelic heyday circa 1973, without great success. The main story wheels around a tousle-haired nine-year-old boy in big glasses, who views his dysfunctional family with complete naiveté and through dense emotional armor. A few coy smiles are lurking in this likable first film directed by noted screenwriter Ivan Cotroneo but the story, based on his own novel, is too scrambled and unfocused to foretell major local box office; the setting may actually work better offshore.

Enough happens to little Peppino (Luigi Catani) in the course of the film to scar most children for life, but somehow he takes it on the chin and comes up gazing blankly. His mother Rosaria (a warm, inviting Valeria Golino) has sunk into depression and taken to her bed since discovering hubby Antonio (TV star Luca Zingaretti) is having an affair under her nose. His cousin Gennaro (Vincenzo Nemolato), who wears a red cape and thinks he’s Superman, is run over by a bus, but comes back from the dead to encourage Peppino to accept himself for the unique human being he is.

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The story flows on and on without raising the emotional temperature. Peppino gets into scrapes at school.  His father buys him pet chicks, who die. When Rosaria’s family is unable to cajole her out of her depression, they send her to dashing psychoanalyst Fabrizio Gifune, who does the trick.

The most original part of the film is Peppino’s education at the hands of his swinging young aunt (an exuberant, amusing Cristina Capotondi) and uncle (eye-shadowed Libero Di Rienzo), who drag him to sit-ins and love-ins full of bra-burning feminists, nudity and LSD. Playing the Sixties for gaudy costumes and shallow laughs, Kryptonite! makes fun of its characters’ mores and illusions with little or no sympathy for the thinking of the time. In the end the period is just plain atmosphere, and everything boils down to the usual Italian family drama of betrayal.

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Luca Bigazzi’s cinematography gives Naples a lugubrious charm, capturing the claustrophobia of the ancient inner city and the middle-class homes. The soundtrack drags under the weight of sub-standard Italian covers, from "These Boot Are Made for Walking" to "The Age of Aquarius."

Venue: Rome Film Festival (competing), Nov. 3, 2011.
Production companies: Indigo Film in association with Rai Cinema
Cast: Valeria Golino, Cristiana Capotondi, Luca Zingaretti, Libero De Rienzo, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Catani
Director: Ivan Cotroneo
Screenwriters: Ivan Cotroneo, Monica Rametta, Ludovica Rampoldi
Producers: Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima
Director of photography: Luca Bigazzi
Production designer: Lino Fiorito
Music: Pasquale Catalano
Costumes:  Rossano Marchi
Editor: Giogio’ Franchini
Sales Agent: RAI Trade
No rating, 98 minutes.