The Family Friend | Chicago Reader

The Family Friend

108 minutes

Endlessly infatuated with its own cinematic flamboyance, Paolo Sorrentino's latest aims for profundity but has no more substance than the average flashy TV commercial. Known for haunted architectural landscapes and swooping camera movements, he delivers a character study of Geremia (played with appropriate oiliness by Giacomo Rizzo), a gargoylelike loan shark whose moral and physical hideousness is apparently intended to be some sort of oblique commentary on contemporary Italian corruption and self-deception. Geremia's loathsome seduction of a young bride saddled with debt—and her subsequent declaration of love for him—might be convincing if it were written with the political savvy of a Brecht or filmed with the moral insights of a Pasolini. But Geremia is a figure of grim pathos, and Sorrentino's attempt to transform his Machiavellian glee into a sentimental journey is as repellent as the character's scowling mug. In Italian with subtitles.

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