COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 37min (English, Italian with subtitles)
STARRING: Joe Pantoliano, Wendy Crewson, Paula Brancati
Hats off: Pantoliano
Attorney Mark Gentile (pronounced “gen-TEEL-ay” and artlessly played by Memento’s Pantoliano) is at the apex of his career until he does what fed up titans of a certain vintage have probably dreamed of doing since the dawn of time and quits his job for a trip to Italy. His wife, Marina (Crewson), and daughter Laura (Brancati) are floored. Mark appears not to care.
When he lands in Italy, the country of his birth forsaken 45 years ago for the US and Canada, Mark homes in on his storybook-scenic boyhood town of Acerenza with no idea of his next move. As in all small towns, the Acerenzans have long memories, starting with Mark’s childhood friend Luca (Marco Leonardi), who is now the local policeman and playfully pretends to arrest him. (Italians! Too much fun!) Subtle, Luca is not, which makes sense since subtle in its tasteful shades has no place on the To Do list of director Sean Cisterna’s rosy screenplay (adapted by Willem Wennekers from Kenneth Canio Cancellara’s 2010 novel Finding Marco).
Mentally teleported to his past, Marco, as he’s indeed now known, is overwhelmed by guilt at abandoning his late grandad. In snatches of magic realism that echo his heightened state, statues flicker cutely to life, his nonno appears before him, comradely and wise, and before he’s barely had time to party, Marco is reviving nonno ’s dormant vineyard. He knows zip about winemaking, which also doesn’t faze him since nothing apparently now does. And why would it, when with the help of a curmudgeonly vigneron (Tony Nardi) and some game-for-it local ring-ins, the wheels of commerce begin to spin, Marina and Laura arrive on the balmy scene and love and lire are in the air?
In less warm and open hands, his cavalier midlife crisis would set Marco up as a screaming douche. But a mild-mannered Pantoliano does borderline cuckoo to a T while Southern Italy and its laidback locals had me at buongiorno. Predictability doesn’t always have to be a curse: knowing where this love affair with letting go is headed is the key to its sweet-natured success.