PIFF 2010 website
Mid-August Lunch (Italy; dir. Gianni Di Gregorio)
The screenwriter of Gomorrah cracks open the dangerous world of elderly women like a tenement slum!
Well, not exactly, but it is kind of surprising to see the architect of that grimy criminal expose making his directorial debut on a film about what old ladies like to eat. Then again, Scorsese followed Mean Streets with Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, so there's a precedent for this sort of thing.
Gianni Di Gregorio not only writes and directs Mid-August Lunch, but he also stars, playing Gianni, the middle-aged son of Valeria De Franciscis, a vain woman who lives in the upper condominium in Rome. I say vain because she still does her make-up and has a big pile of blonde hair despite the fact that it makes her look like someone mixed up Clyde with Ruth Gordon in Every Which Way But Loose. Also, because she and her son apparently haven't paid her bills in some time, and the condo co-op is ready to take action. As a trade-off, Gianni agrees to take in his landlord's old mother, Marina Cacciotti, for a couple of days. When Marina comes by, it's sprung on Gianni that he will also take Aunt Maria (Maria Calì). Then, when his doctor visits, the doc asks Gianni to cough and to babysit his mum (Grazia Cesarini Sforza) while he works the night shift.
Before he knows it, Gianni has gone from being a layabout to the concierge in an apartment full of four women, each with their own peccadilloes and demands. Maria forgets stuff and repeats herself, Marina is horny, the doctor's mom can't eat meat but sneaks it anyway, that kind of thing. At first the women all hate each other and retire to separate rooms, but then they find a common ground and get chatty and get Gianni to make them one big lunch.
And that's it. There is nothing more grand to Mid-August Lunch. At a scant 76 minutes, Di Gregorio gets in and gets out and doesn't let it get any more complicated than that. (In this, it is the complete opposite of Gomorrah.) While it is, yes, pretty anemic in terms of conflict-based plot, there is something undeniably winning about the film all the same. Shot simply and in close quarters, there is an intimacy to Mid-August Lunch that invites the viewer to be a part of the gathering. No great lessons are learned, but the assuredness of the delivery makes it so we can be content with just enjoying our time at the table, sharing a meal with new friends.
Mid-August Lunch has already screened for the public. No word yet on a wider North American release.
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All text (c) 2010 Jamie S. Rich