The Worst Week of My Life, directed by Alessandro Genovesi, was a hit comedy in Italy – being based on a popular UK television sitcom of the same name helps – which I am sure will reap similar rewards at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival.
The premise is simple. Paolo (Fabio De Luigi) is a 40-year-old advertising agent who is a week shy of marrying his beautiful fiancé Margherita (Cristiana Capotondi). Their excitement for married life in not shared by Margherita’s eccentric upper class parents (Monica Guerritore and Antonio Catania) – and a visit to their lovely home sets in motion a week-long series of escalating disasters that not only severely dents their impression of him, but poses a challenge to the loving couple’s big day.
This often-hilarious slapstick comedy makes use of awkward humour in the vein of the familiar pre-wedding disaster/meet the parents’ mayhem. It's pretty funny for a while - especially the first two days spent at Paolo’s future in-laws place - but the laughs do dry up significantly as the build-up of situations become increasingly implausible. This applies to what transpires, how they are resolved, and how much his wife-to-be forgives him. But, for pure escapist fun this delivers more than not.
When we first meet our protagonist we can't help but wonder how he managed to be so close to marrying such a beautiful woman, a decade his younger. “He was unlike anyone I ever met, and he loves me” she says. Fair enough. They clearly do love one another, and due to the purposes of keeping this film light, her reactions to his antics are hard to buy. Come the end of the film you have to wonder what she still sees. This bumbling dufus makes a meal of his week. Granted, some things aren't his fault – some awful goulash, a psychotic ex-girlfriend who consistently turns up pledging her love for him (really overdone) – but a lot of his misdemeanors – the cause of a comatose in-law for example - aren’t the result of sound-minded decision-making.
There are some good comic performances here. De Luigi is a sympathetic buffoon who displays some Sellers-esque skill in desperately sidestepping responsibility, only to find it come back to bite him eventually. Some of the incidents are the result of pure bad luck, but other irreparable incidents are through Paolo’s own clumsiness. Alessandro Siani, who plays Paolo’s best man Ivano, succeeds in being the worst friend ever, while Catania’s expressionless bewilderment at Paolo’s antics is terrific.
Admittedly, a lot of the gags here have been recycled. Think Meet the Parents Italian-style. Also, Paolo’s best covert attempts to spit out the lamb from his mother-in-law’s ghastly goulash brought back memories of Jerry’s attempts to please a girlfriend in Seinfeld. Despite the increasing inconsistency of the gags in the latter part of Paolo’s worst week and some awful music – in the vein of Woody Allen’s jazz numbers – this is enjoyable enough.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
The Worst Week of My Life is screening at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, which commences in Victoria and Queensland this week and Sydney and the ACT next week. For ticket purchases and more information visit the festival website - http://www.italianfilmfestival.com.au/
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.