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I Am Love (2010)

July 28, 2010

VERDICT:
6/10 Simple Pleasures

While it totally jumps the shark like you wouldn’t believe, there is a certain greatness here driving things along.

Among other family dramas, I Am Love is about the wife of a high society businessman in Milan who jeopardizes her lush life and family structure as she starts to drift from her stagnant marriage and falls for her son’s associate, a humble and gifted chef who’s roughly half her age.

Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything by writer/director Luca Guadagnino before, but this is one of those bittersweet situations where all the praise for everything that shines and all the hate for everything that fails can more or less be directed to him and him alone. As a director, he’s very much in charge, as a writer, he’s a bit rough around the edges, but whatever, let’s just get on down to the nitty gritty and go from there.

For the first hour or so, this movie was sitting pretty at an 8 and didn’t show any signs of dropping. Guadagnino’s most prevalent strength right from the outset are his gorgeous visuals coupled with an orchestral score that seem to be made for one another. It’s like watching someone paint with film and his celebration of Italy from the classic mansions to the sprawling countryside do a native justice to how beautiful it actually is. In this regard, I’ve got nothing to complain about and it stays that way from start to finish. Good job, Luca.

Unfortunately, pretty sights and easy listening only go so far.

See, Guadagnino’s script is an anomaly of sorts. It’s very quiet, it lets the action do the talking more often than not and you really gotta dig deep to get to the heart of what’s going on with everyone in this outwardly material family. And I liked that, I dig movies that make me pay attention and work for it instead of beating me over the head to make sure I didn’t miss it the first time around, but then the third Act rolls around and it takes a cheap, idioitic and inexplicable turn for the melodramatic and, surprisingly enough, makes no attempt to recover in the remaining half-hour.

Honestly, I about laughed out loud when this said scene went down and just as all the credible emotional weight of the story swirls down the lou, so does any semblance of a connection I had with these characters. From that point, this was like watching a perfume commercial as the family stops being realistic and starts being actors. It’s just obscure and arty fartsy to a fault and I was disappointed to find myself thinking nothing but “Well, that wasn’t worth twelve bucks,” during the final minutes instead of feeling like my foundation had just been shaken the hell up.

But lucky for Guadagnino, Tilda Swinton does go all out and bares every last inch as Emma Recchi, our cheeky mother with a weak spot for men in aprons. Her performance only gets better with time, but the bummer of the matter is that Emma has the same problems going for her that the script as a whole does. There’s just not enough of a contrast from her mentality when we first meet her to make her ultimate “development” as a character feel genuine, instead, it just feels…weird. Her acting doesn’t quite salvage the faults, but it does make me want to finally give Michael Clayton a shot because she sure has some chops, even if she does look like she’s scared shitless almost all the time.

I really thought I was going to like I Am Love, the trailers had this A Single Man vibe going for ’em that drew me in immediately, I’m always searching for that next great subtle movie about real people with real problems, and even though Guadagnino nails it on the visuals and the mood, that last Act really was a fucking disaster. Not a bad movie, there’s just a lot going on all at once, a lot of which doesn’t get the focus it deserves in light of how it relates back to Emma’s storyline, and even though it’s pretty unfocused, there are some fantastic gems that make the trip worthwhile.

On that note, there really is something wonderful about Swinton’s character and how she allows herself to get swept off her feet by life in its most innate, indulgent and everyday forms, and even though I was a tad harsh on the ending, the first two Acts are something to admire. I don’t know, this movie is an experience on many levels and even though I might not have “gotten it” on my first viewing, I’m open to giving it another shot in like twenty years or so when I’ve hit rock bottom during my inevitable mid-life crisis. Here’s to hoping it’ll finally click.

Good times.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2010 8:21 pm

    Michael Clayton is INCREDIBLE! How have you not seen it? Tilda Swinton in that movie was lightyears better than Tilda in this movie.

    I gave this movie a straight up F, the only one I’ve ever given. This crap was sooooo stinking bad. I laughed through the end. Never have I been so unmoved by a piece of cinema. Please, for the love of God, give Jennifer Aniston a Best Actress nomination for “The Bounty Hunter” instead of Tilda for this!

    • August 2, 2010 8:28 am

      hahaha, that last half-hour or so was nothing short of God-awful. but you’ve convinced me on Clayton, will finally watch it now. will report back.

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