The Woman of My Dreams -- Film Review

Mother thinks she knows best in rom-com with a serious point about self-deception in love.

A comedy of psychological errors, "The Woman of My Dreams," director Luca Lucini's third film in three years with ever-rising star Luca Argentero, draws laughs as it makes us ponder those big and little lies we tell to get what we want -- or out of where we don't want to be -- in love.

Though it could have been released a little closer to Christmas, the romantic comedy can count on male and female audiences alike, thanks to an all-star cast that includes Stefania Sandrelli and Alessandro Gassman, who has perfected the bumbling macho man.

Sandrelli is Alba, a bossy matriarch with two sons, born of two different fathers and ten years apart. Giorgio (Gassman) is a philandering gynecologist in his 40s married to the upper crust Carolina (Sonia Bergamasco), who has been trying to get pregnant for years. Leonardo (Argentero) is a 31-year-old lamb who still lives with his parents and is always falling for the wrong kind of girl, the last one even drove him to a suicide attempt.

Leonardo meets Sara (Valentina Lodovini), just out of a two-year affair with a married man, and thinks he's found his soul mate. Never mind that she spends most of the time talking about her ex ("the jerk"), the kind and accommodating Leo is happy to listen. When he brings her home to meet the family, it turns out, to her surprise, that the jerk is none other than her beau's brother. Giorgio is just as shocked, and still smoldering for Sara, but begs her not to tell his brother or his wife the truth.

Watching over everyone in silence is Alba's second husband and Leo's father, Sandro (Giorgio Colangeli, irresistible and clearly having a blast here), who himself is getting fed up with his pushy wife and has started an affair with his employee. While Alba is busy orchestrating her family's lives, imagining Leo's wedding and Giorgio's future children, everyone else is trying to fit the molds carved out for them, but their facades are crumbling. The crux of the film is in a line Alba's first husband says to her, in a hallucination: "You can tell yourself whatever you want, but there has to be that one person in life you don't lie to."

In a sense, The Woman of My Dreams is an amorality tale about how relationships are shaped by self-deceiving perceptions as much as by desire. Scriptwriters Giulia Calenda and Teresa Ciabatti don't judge any of the characters and Lucini makes sure our sympathies lie with all of them as well, nicely opting for wit rather than broad comedy.

Although Gassman and Lodovini don't radiate explosive chemistry, the performances are all strong and what keeps the story together. Argentero goes up and down though, to be fair, his character is the most roughly written. Initially he struggles to deliver some depth to mama's boy Leo yet as the character develops an edge, Argentero, blessed with leading man looks and talent, comes into his own.

Italian film buffs will get a nostalgic jolt from seeing Sandrelli, who in her ingenue days did some of her best work with the legendary Vittorio Gassman, playing the mother to his son.

Opens in Italy: Friday, Nov. 26 (Universal Pictures)

Production companies: Cattleya, Universal Pictures International
Cast: Luca Argentero, Alessandro Gassman, Stefania Sandrelli, Valentina Lodovini, Giorgio Colangeli, Sonia Bergamasco, Lella Costa, Gaia Bermani Amaral, Franco Branciaroli
Director: Luca Lucini
Screenwriters: Giulia Calenda, Teresa Ciabatti
Producers: Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz
Director of photography: Alessandro Bolzoni
Production designer: Totoi Santoro
Music: Giuliano Taviani, Carmelo Travia
Costume designers: Gabriella Pescucci, Massimo Cantini Parrini
Editor: Fabrizio Rossetti
No rating, 94 minutes

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