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Melania Mazzucco has stated the title of her novel A Perfect Day is a deliberate reference to Lou Reed's famous song, which moviegoers might remember from the overdose scene in Trainspotting. Given such a cinematic precedent, maybe it's an indication of the state of mind one should be experiencing in order to enjoy Ferzan Ozpetek's insipid adaptation of Mazzucco's book.
As the title suggests, the story spans 24 hours, in an unidentified neighborhood in Rome. This is where Emma Buonocore (Isabella Ferrari) lives with her two children, and it's also the place where her ex husband Antonio (Valerio Mastandrea) comes every night to spy on her, peeping tom-style. Emma has a hard time raising the kids on her own, and on that particular day her universe falls apart when she loses her part-time job and Antonio, mad with jealousy (ironic, since his last name means "good heart"), goes to extreme lengths to convince her they should get back together.
Saying anything else about the plot isn't necessary because a) the outcome is ridiculously predictable, and b) there isn't really much of a plot to discuss in the first place. A Perfect Day looks less like a movie than it does a mediocre episode of a TV series, complete with basic storytelling, pointless "guest appearances" (Angela Finocchiaro, who pops up in three scenes for almost no reason at all) and god-awful characterizations. In what sane world does a six-year old talk like a middle-aged French philosopher?
Such blandness (and that's the most polite word I could think of) is a bit of a surprise coming from Ozpetek, who used to make carefully crafted character studies (not counting the misstep that was Sacred Heart). One of his merits has always been getting flesh-and-blood performances from his actors, whereas this time no one gets even close to anything vaguely resembling proper acting. Ferrari and Mastandrea try their best, but they look like little more than caricatures of the much more intense double act of Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris (a comparison that is practically dictated by a squalid scene of attempted rape and Mastandrea's laughable comments about sodomy). Everyone else is utterly lifeless from start to finish, even respected actresses like Stefania Sandrelli and Monica Guerritore (whose role was changed from the book because the original version, a gay male teacher, was deemed "too clichéd" for an Ozpetek film). The only bit of the movie that can be described as mildly enjoyable is when the children watch the Italian version of March of the Penguins, narrated by Fiorello: some quality dialogue at last!
Okay, maybe that was too harsh: there is also a splendid tracking shot that opens the film and was meant to foreshadow the sombre atmosphere of the story. Sadly, that didn't work out as planned, and so we are left with nothing but (pardon the pun) a perfect failure.
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