Continuing our cinematic travels in a westerly direction which began on March 8th with a visit to Hong Kong for A Simple Life, then on March 10th, we stopped off in Mumbai, India, for Talaash, which brings us to today, where we have a holiday in Rome, Italy, for the 2008 film – Mid-August Lunch. Gianni Di Gregorio wrote, directed, and starred in the film.
Last May, I reviewed Di Gregorio’s The Salt of Life. That film was the second in this series of films. This film, Mid-August Lunch, is the first. In Salt of Life, Gianni played a man, about 60, who discovers because the marital passion has dimmed considerably, that in pursuit of a bella ragazza (beautiful girl), most of the ones that he finds breathtaking, don’t even notice him. In his mind, he’s become invisible to women.
In Mid-August Lunch, Gianni is a bit younger, there’s no mention of any wife, and there’s plenty of women. The only problem is that each of them has long since passed the expiration date of being called a bella ragazza. Gianni is ensconced in his mother’s condo in Trastavere. He has no job, and he spends his days cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Money seems a bit low so he’s taken to running tabs at the all the local alimentaria (shops).
“Bottoglia di acqua tonic per Mamma, and two bottle of Chablis for me….and kindly add it to my bill. Grazie.”
He’s also not paid the utility bill in 5 months, nor the condo association fees in 3 months.
The condo manager comes by one day, but Gianni’s Mamma doesn’t open the door. Poor Gianni runs in to the condo guy on the steps. A deal is worked out. In exchange for making the late condo fees disappear, Gianni will put up the condo manager’s mother for the weekend, as he must go out-of-town, and he doesn’t want her to be left alone.
With cash being short – Gianni accepts.
Later that same day, Gianni, feels some stress, so he consults with the family doctor Marcello, Gianni is still cash-less, and wouldn’t you know it – this guy is also in dire straits. He too needs to stash his Mother for the weekend. A second and similar deal is struck.
So there’s your set up – Gianni will have to watch over, cook for, provide for, and entertain two elderly women guests and his own Mamma for the long and hot mid August weekend.
Poor Gianni. He had no idea of what he had signed on for. As it turns out – neither did we. The condo manager’s Mamma has brought an Aunt as a tag-a-long. With the aunt now installed, as well as the other two ‘guests’, Gianni says he will be out-of-pocket (ciò però costa) so additional cash will need to be handed over. The guy hands over some Euros, announces to all in hearing that he hopes they enjoy themselves.
To say that Gianni had his hands full would be a gross understatement. The apartment has but two bedroom, and Gianni thought he’d be okay with the roll-a-way extra bed and the foldout sofa-bed in the living room. He expected only two women guests. But with the Aunt now in-house, Gianni now realizes that the apartment is under-bedded by a count of one. And that’s just for starters.
Things get progressively worse. After the condo guy drops off his Mamma and her aunt, Gianni, watching from his balcony, sees that the condo manager is now met in the street by a bella ragazza and they drive off. That can’t be good for Gianni’s spirits.
We viewers we are shorted to a degree as well. I expected some funny stuff. While the situation has many comic possibilities – Gianni takes the high-road and avoids the obvious jokes. In fact there are no jokes, only situations.
Instead of laughing out load, uproariously and often, we are left to watch things play out and at various times, all we can do is to nod in agreement, as likely we’ve encountered much of this ourselves. Yeah, been there, done that.
It’s enough to drive man to drink. Accordingly, we see a glass of vino in Gianni’s hands so often, that we lose count.
To summarize, this Mid August Lunch, in Italian – Pranzo di Ferragusto, is not much of a cinematic meal. To call it a ‘Lunch’ is an exaggeration. I’ll label it as the equivalent of bar snacks. Three point zero is the rating. Actually, I liked the second film in the series better. Check out the trailer.
Doesn’t Gianni Di Gregorio remind you of the late actor Jerry Orbach who played Detective Lenny Briscoe on the long-running TV series Law & Order?