'La dea Fortuna': Film Review

LA DEA FORTUNA Still 2 - Publicity -H 2019
Romolo Eucalitto/ R&C Produzioni, Faros Film and Warner Bros Entertainment
A scattershot story with warm, redeeming moments.

Stefano Accorsi and Edoardo Leo play a gay couple whose slow breakup is accelerated when they babysit in Ferzan Ozpetek’s drama.

The painful disintegration of a couple who have been together for 15 years plays out in Ferzan Ozpetek’s La dea Fortuna (literally, "The Goddess Fortune"), a breakup complicated by their sick friend Annamaria, who parks her two kids with them while she’s in the hospital. After his poetic-exotic excursions in Red Istanbul and Naples in Veils, the director returns to the familiar ironies of gay dramedy that found a broad Italian audience for two of his most popular works, Le fate ignoranti (in which a young widow discovers her dead husband was bisexual) and Loose Cannons (a youth has to inform his conservative parents he’s gay).

The difference is that here the focus is squarely on the sentimental drama of two gay men. Another factor is the way the screenplay by Ozpetek, his regular co-writer Gianni Romoli and Silvia Ranfagni jumps in tone from cheery rom-com to emotional drama to tragedy, touching on all sorts of themes, characters and plotlines it has difficulty integrating into a meaningful whole. The story has a tendency to scatter at times, and it banks a lot on the humanity of the three main actors who have some heart-wrenching moments riding out the joys and sorrows of modern life, complicated by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.   

The joyful opening scene of a gay wedding provides a sketchy intro to the large cast of characters, out of which Alessandro (Edoardo Leo) and Arturo (Stefano Accorsi) gradually emerge. (Confusingly, it turns out to be their apartment, but not their wedding.) Alessandro is a dark, hunky plumber and Arturo a frustrated translator who dropped his plans to become a college teacher (why?) when they met. Their relationship appears open to occasional extracurricular flings, but not to a long-term lover, as it turns out one of them has. Though told with a touch of humor, there is a lot of sad realism in depicting Alessandro and Arturo’s declining sexual desire for each other and whether their relationship can survive it.

The third important character arrives late to the wedding. Annamaria (a relaxed, instantly likable Jasmine Trinca) is a childhood friend of Alessandro’s, a free-spirited, ever-smiling mother of two children by different men. She is also a Sicilian baroness, estranged from her family — but that comes later. When she checks into a Roman hospital to find out what’s causing her ferocious headaches, and leaves self-possessed Martina (Sara Ciocca) and her wise younger brother, Alessandro (Edoardo Brandi), with her close friends Alessandro and Arturo, it would take a very naive viewer not to guess how things are going to unfold.

Even the greatest kids are stressful for a couple on the skids, and eventually they have to be sent to their witchy grandma, haughtily played by screenwriter-actress Barbara Alberti (she co-wrote Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love and Asia Argento's Misunderstood). Alberti's malefic presence is worthy of a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. Pleasingly, the big showdown is staged in Sicily, in a Baroque mansion whose morbid wall frescoes we have glimpsed in the opening scene, while a child screams inside a locked closet. 

In a well-directed quality cast, Leo’s (Perfect Strangers) level-headed plumber Alessandro has the more vocal role and rather steals the stage from star Accorsi (The Last Kiss), who makes up for Arturo's smoldering pique in an emotional, last-ditch scene with the kids on the overnight ferry to Sicily. Trinca walks a fine tightrope in her hospital scenes, and the child actors add character and reality to a film that tends to slip around a lot.

As usual for Ozpetek, the tech work is Italian eleganza personified and the sets include some stunning locations. One scene is set in the impressive ancient Roman Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, echoing the film’s title. The closing sequences were shot in the 17th century Villa Valguarnera outside Palermo, which includes a celebrated room full of macabre frescoes of skulls and skeletons.

Production companies: Warner Bros., R&C Produzioni, Faros Film
Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Edoardo Leo, Jasmine Trinca, Barbara Alberti, Serra Yilmaz, Sara Ciocca, Edoardo Brandi, Pia Lanciotti, Cristina Bugatty, Filippo Nigro
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
Screenwriters: Ferzan Ozpetek, Silvia Ranfagni, Gianni Romoli
Producers: Tilde Corsi, Gianni Romoli
Director of photography: Gian Filippo Corticelli
Production designer: Giulia Busnengo
Costume designers: Monica Gaetani, Alessandro Lai
Editor: Pietro Morana
Music: Pasquale Catalano
Casting: Pino Pellegrino
Venue: Barberini cinema, Rome
114 minutes