Judge Jason Panella is not one of Garibaldi's lovers.
A dash of corruption. A pinch of romance. What could go wrong?
Garibaldi's Lovers is an incredibly solid movie—it isn't outstanding, but works perfectly well as an absurd comedy that celebrates the people of Italy while simultaneously providing a pointed critique of the country's crumbling notion of neighborliness.
Facts of the Case
A number of lives intersect in modern Milan, Italy: Diana (Alba Rohrwacher, I Am Love), a young artist struggling to pay rent; widower Leo (Valerio Mastandrea, The First Beautiful Thing), who is trying to raise his two teenager children (while getting advice from the ghost of his wife); and Amanzio (Giuseppe Battiston, The Tiger and the Snow), an eccentric slumlord who spends his time intellectually browbeating everyone he meets. As these characters bump into each other, their choices (and the choices of the nation) are judged by a statue of legendary Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi (voiced by Pierfrancesco Favivo, World War Z).
Garibaldi's Lovers (original title: The Commander and the Stork) isn't exactly groundbreaking—romantic comedies with a dose of European magical realism have become pretty common—but it's still a quite enjoyable film, and one that's surprisingly smart. Director and co-writer Silvio Soldini (Days and Clouds) wraps the film in an absurd framing device that actually works: the giant monument to Garibaldi watches from a lofty perch, arguing with other nearby statues about Italy's history and current state of affairs. As the unifier of what became modern Italy, Garibaldi wonders if it was worth it, especially with rampant corruption and materialism he sees daily from his perch. Garibaldi's statue singles out the film's characters—will they make the right choices, and do they provide hope for Italy's future? He hopes so.
And so did I, because the majority of the characters are absolutely frustrating: Diana is beyond helpless, Amanzio obnoxious, Leo hopelessly downtrodden. But Garibaldi's Lovers is a comedy in the Shakespearean sense, never cruel to its characters regardless of the crappy situations they keep finding themselves in. One of the most interesting plotlines (as well as most important) involves Leo's 13-year-old son Elia and his best friend, a stork named Agostina (magic realism, remember?). Elia's selflessness to the giant bird provides not only provides an answer to Garabaldi's questions, but also provides some forward momentum to the movie's plodding middle third.
Frustrating characters and a wandering plot don't hurt the movie that much, though, and the film wraps up nicely. It's ultimately an enjoyable, fun little movie, and it's blatant message thankfully doesn't become too preachy.
Film Movement's release of Garibaldi's Lovers provides a nice standard def 2.35:1 transfer, which is especially noticeable during some of the film's lovely outdoor shots. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo tracks are also pretty good, though nothing above average. The release also includes two short bios (of Rohrwacher and Soldini), some trailers, and Anete Melence's passable animated short "The Kiosk" (7:02).
Garibaldi's Lovers gets in some good laughs, some good messages, and some good cinematography—not a bad way to spend two hours.
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