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1 item from 2006

Puccini for Beginners

9 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY -- For folks with two lovers, life can be complicated. And if those two lovers were former lovers, things are even more dicey. Stoke that relationship equation to the nth degree with a factor of lesbianism and you've got "Puccini for Beginners", a deliriously funny romantic roundelay.

Brainy and balmy, this InDigEnt comedy titillated and seduced a Sundance audience with its riotously funny moments and hilariously perceptive insights. A latter-day "Holiday", "Puccini" should win over select-site viewers and thrive as a cable and/or video offering.

Distilling sexual politics to sharp comedy and transcending gender issues with transcendent screwball reasoning, filmmaker Maria Maggenti has concocted a love story for both the heart and the mind.

In this fevered romp, Allegra and Samantha split, and Grace leaves Philip when he won't commit. At this point of detachment, Allegra hooks up with both Grace and Philip and -- well, you get the crazy, cross-connected picture, right up to a classic screwball finale (not, however, set at a wedding).

Mixing the whirlwind elegance of a classic '30s screwball comedy, with snippets of '70s Woody Allen romantic angst, writer-director Maggenti has stylized a breezy and brainy multiple love story.

Conflicted and confused, the various characters are singularly sympathetic. We root for everyone, and, most magically, everyone seems to win in the end. That's due in large part to the terrific cast, including Elizabeth Reaser as the commitment-phobic, aptly named Allegra, and Justin Kirk as the man in the middle. Gretchen Mol is charismatic as the apple of everyone's eye, while Tina Benko is amusing as a sarcastic, jilted lover.

Technical contributions are scrumptious: production designer Aleta Shaffer's character accoutrements, cinematographer Mauricio Rubinstein's luminous framings and costume designer Antonio Xereas' tight personality-fits. »

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