L'amico di famiglia (2006) Poster

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Weird and wonderful.
come2whereimfrom10 April 2007
In a word, weird form the outset. From the opening creepy noises and extreme visual stimulation to the random cuts and bizarre set pieces 'The Family Friend' is nothing if not captivating. Its directed superbly by Paolo Sorrentino, whose last film the 'The Consequences of Love' should give you some idea of his visual style and flair, add to this the great cinematography, brilliant use of music and the twisted central performance of Giacomo Rizzo as Geremia and you have a truly excellent if not a little disturbing movie which is part Lynch, Part Fellini and all original. Geremia is a seventy year old tailor which is actually a cover for the fact he is a loan shark. Lonely and sleazy he prays on the needy and during the loan deals poses as a family friend to surround himself with people. One such family borrows money for their daughters wedding and Geremia becomes self appointed helper and starts arranging things for the young couple. Eventually he falls for the bride to be, a winner of the local beauty pageant, and the film becomes a kind of beauty and the beast tale. She is the gorgeous young girl overly fond of dancing and he amongst other things is a seedy, beastly rapist. The films characters are pretty much all unredeemable and it comes across like an Italian 'League of Gentlemen' with its dark humour and strange set ups. The music adds to the weirdness by ranging from Anthony and the Johnsons to classical and country and western. Just like 'Hidden' from last year the film leaves loads of unanswered questions and loose ends but that adds to its deconstructed nature and doesn't detract in anyway from the main story. Its in the smaller things that this film shines like when everyone takes their own chairs to the beauty contest as 'the sponsor and provider of seats pulled out at the last minute' or how Geremia's carrier bag swings from side to side over his plastered arm as he waddles along in schoolboy short trousers. This film won't be to everyone's liking, it is almost certainly an acquired taste, but those that can get under its skin won't be disappointed and will love it for all its creepy eccentricities
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Survival of the fittest
Cliff Hanley19 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Paulo Sorrentino, with The Consequences of Love, proved himself to be an elegant explorer of twisted obsession.

This follow-up is set in what was once the Pontine Marshes, near Rome. The protagonist Geremia di Geremei (Rizzo), an ageing tailor and loanshark, employs a couple of heavies, one of whom supplies the history in seconds: while putting pressure on a couple of borrowers, he suddenly turns and slaps the wall behind him. "A mosquito! All this was swamps before Il Duce!" - then smiles broadly at the suitably startled face of the 'customer'.

Geremia, who would come over as nothing but scruffy but for his affectation of wearing his jackets and coats over his shoulders like a grand impresario; but who spends the whole film with one arm in a cast, hinting at some previous shenanigans, scuttles (there's no other word for it) between his 9 to 5 ragtrade shop which is obviously more than a mere money-laundering front, and the smelly little flat which he shares with his bedridden mother, who spends all her days glued to the TV. Not your typical hood.

In his sweatshop he accepts entreaties from desperate low credit citizens - much of his business is for weddings. He puts on a mock-uncle affection for the potential brides, and they try not to gag as he oozes all over them. (It later becomes apparent that he is actually carrying on the family business.) He and his customers have a tacit face-saver, in referring to him as a 'friend of the family'. When he and his 'boys' visit one late-paying couple, the jewellery and kitchen appliance they take are not quite enough, and he returns for further tribute from the wife in the form of a perverse sexual / financial / sentimental action, a deeply symbolic scene that seems to hint at a lot about his character. Some friend.

Another scene where disparate elements make their own logic is where the beautiful Rosalba (Chiatti) wins a beauty contest and goes into her winning dance routine, hot and writhing but against limpid and cool synth music. Her subsequent wedding becomes the first of Geremia's shake-ups: her father, although disgusted with himself, unable to handle the payments necessary to cover the costs of the celebration, engineers an opportunity for the tailor to be alone with the bride, ostensibly to repair a broken shoulder-strap on her wedding-gown.

The next big move is when Geremia, against the advice of his mother, takes on the loan of a lifetime; the lure of big business and the barely credible relationship between this latter-day Gollum with the feisty Rosalba explode the top end of his life, putting an end to his extended childhood.

Practically everything that happens in this film has the apparent weight of symbolism, and doubtless some parts are, in fact, symbolic. Although its morbid purulence may leave you feeling a need to head for the wash-basin, it's fascinating throughout for its constant digging below the surface of life to examine the linkage. And perhaps as a study of the survival of the fittest. CLIFF HANLEY
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A miserly loan shark finally meets his match
Daniel Britten3 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Paulo Sorrentino's latest film confirms him as the Antonioni de nos jours. Beautifully shot with an intrusive and fascinatingly eclectic soundtrack, it is nevertheless irritatingly self-conscious and wilfully elliptical. A marvellous, almost Dickensian fable about a miserly loan shark who gets his comeuppance, is somewhat undercut by the director's own preoccupation with style.

Geremia is a tailor/loan shark who lives with his invalid mother in a squalid apartment in small town Italy. One day, he is asked by a waiter to pay for the wedding of his daughter, Rossana (played by the goddess-like Laura Chiatti). Geremia instantly falls in love, and wastes no time in exploiting the situation for his own dark purposes. However, Rossana gives him more than he bargained for and in a sub-plot he is betrayed by his only 'friend', Gino.

This is very much a film about appearances, and how deceptive they can be. Geremia, whilst grotesquely greedy and physically repulsive, offers some profound insights into what makes other people tick, if not himself. Rossana turns out to be the perfect foil for him, for while he has had to fight for every opportunity he gets, life has been handed to her on a plate. Ultimately they are both motivated, if not undone, by greed and pride in equal measure.

Sorrentino, who directed the stylish but more superficial The Consequences of Love, is certainly developing a distinctive style of film-making. The question is whether he can achieve a more successful marriage of the flashy modern rock sensibility with what are fundamentally old-fashioned values in story-telling. It is something which others, notably Sofia Coppola, have recently tried to do, with equally mixed results.
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With Friends Like These ...
writers_reign17 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
At a superficial level this is Beauty And The Beast with spin. The Beast isn't really handsome and Beauty doesn't really fall in love with him but he is unprepossessing to say the least and she is attractive and maybe even beautiful in the right light. The Beast, Geremia is a tailor by profession who does a little loan sharking on the side and loses no opportunity to waive repayments in return for sexual favours reaching a new low on the day he sleeps with a young bride minutes before her wedding. As if to emphasize the fairytale source the director allows no chance to point up the squalor in which Geremia lives with his bedridden mother to go unexploited whilst contrasting this with a succession of comely young girls. Woven inextricably into all this is a Sting perpetrated by Geremia's best friend, Gino. It's an interesting movie to say the least and a notable follow-up to the same directors The Consequences Of Love but I'm not sure if it will stand subsequent viewings.
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An early master work from Sorrentino
Martin Bradley26 September 2013
With only 6 full-length feature films under his belt Paolo Sorrentino has already established himself as one of the cinema's greatest stylists. Indeed, I think Sorrentino will turn out to be one of the great directors and not just in his native Italy. His first foray into English, "This Must Be The Place", was an extraordinary American road- movie and a very worthy addition to both that genre and to those visions of America, (and in that particular case, Ireland as well), as seen through the eyes of an outsider. "The Family Friend" was his third film and it, too, is astonishing. It's about a loan shark, the thoroughly despicable Geremia, (a wonderful performance from Giacomo Rizzo), who could have come straight from the pages of a Dickens novel and, though himself in middle-age, lives with his ancient, bed-ridden mother and is on the look-out for a wife or at least a woman. He is a man who takes no prisoners and is certainly not the kind of man you would like to cross. Then one day he meets Rosalba, the daughter of a couple who have borrowed money from him to pay for her wedding, and he is smitten, even though she despises him. This is a dark and very funny film; a variation on "Beauty and the Beast" where the beast really is a beast, a "Phantom of the Opera" where the phantom is as hideous on the inside as he is on the outside, told in the same gloriously broad strokes that Sorrentino has brought to all his films. Critics have compared him to Fellini, (and his most recent film, "The Great Beauty", is a "La Dolce Vita" for the 21st century), but Sorrentino is much too original a talent to be compared to anyone and "The Family Friend" is a true original. Right now I think the only director turning out movies this good, on such a consistent basis, is Paul Thomas Anderson. For starters, they both share the same sense of the absurd though when it comes to the use of music in his movies I think Sorrentino has the edge on all his competitors.
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The good ones die young: that's why we have to be bad
jkelp904 February 2010
L'amico di famiglia / Paolo Sorrentino (2006) A repulsive loan shark, as greedy and unpleasant as one can get, faces the consequences of love. Visually extremely beautiful, with a very cool soundtrack, great performances (Bentivoglio with a Venetian accent???) and a plot that grows minute after minute. I liked this film very much and I was so sad to read the other reviews on IMDb because it's obvious nobody understood it. You can say Sorrentino is Brothers Coen with a heart, to make it very simple: but to read people who still unearth poor old Fellini every time they watch an Italian film it's gut wrenching. Filmed in real location (Latina, Sabaudia and the so-called Agro Pontino were mostly built during Mussolini's dictatorship with the peculiar "fascist" style that make them so unpleasant and cinematic at the same time) and with mostly unknown actors Sorrentino takes his risk in the last part of the movie and doesn't really make it right, but it's a minor flaw that only the "Murder she wrote" fans can be disappointed by. There are some things in common with former Sorrentino's film "Le conseguenze dell'amore": a man who gave up his life (and his dignity) for the sake of money has to come to terms with the unwanted feelings of love (not simply love for a woman but love for a different life, a friend, beauty, freedom, himself). I recommend this film strongly as long as you're an open-minded person and you can get a good translation, if you're not Italian.
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Another Sorrentino gem
ellkew15 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
An impressive and stylish film. Rizzo as Geremia the main character is marvellous. He dominates every scene. His simian style shuffle from side to side, his carrier bag swinging gently from side to side hanging from his bad arm. It is through his eyes we see the world and so the criticism of the female flesh on display seems a bit naieve. It's a stylish film shot through with Sorrentino's flamboyant flourishes of camera movement and against the grain cutting, almost too abrupt sometimes. I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the Consequences of Love and I recommend both of them. There are moments of revelatory dialogue on the nature of existence which doesn't offend or get tied up in long soliliquay's and quite odd scenes offering a glimpse of darkness in this man's tarnished, cynical world where everything, even a kitsch figurine, has a price. It's an icy film and I did come away from it not really sure what I had learned about the characters or what it was trying to say. I was a little disappointed with the end but that said it's offbeat in so many ways I forgive it it's flaws.
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Don't Go Overboard
tiarings23 March 2007
This film is not the great piece of cinema many critics/ viewers seem to think it is or want it to be. It has the occasional effective moment/ sequence, and the use of sub-bass was quite original and evocative in the sound mix. However, it's essentially trying to be an art-house film with enough mainstream/generic or light-hearted moments to appeal to your average non-art-house-watching, can't-handle-it-too-grim-or-arty cinema goer. Therefore, it's hugely flawed. It's not really that dark, for instance, despite a bit of dark posturing, and the more likable/ morally "okay" characters win out in the film's irritatingly moral conclusion. The bonding between the bingo-playing old bat and the cowboy sidekick was almost sickening, and was completely unnecessary if the film wanted to maintain a vaguely black/amoral tone (which it did initially appear to be striving for). I personally find the Coen brother's work to combine humour and a an enjoyably surreal darkness far more effectively, and to maintain a more amoral tone. It does not bare comparison to Fellini at all, for one thing there's none of that crazy visual bravura in the mis-en-scene here, and most of time and there's a deeply middle-brow quality to narrative proceedings. Unlike the great Italian films of 60s/ 70s (Visconti, Antonioni etc) the film is quite uninterestingly shot most of the time, with an overuse of extreme close-ups and close-ups, and with a very standard sense of pace in the editing. To be honest, even Dario Argento is far more visually exciting.

The inclusion of the thriller plot towards the end of film simply does not work that well, and feels contrived and somewhat unengaging: the film suddenly decides it no longer wishes to be a slightly arty character-study of a despicable old money lender and tries to be David Mamet to get the audience "on the edge of their seats" - it had the opposite effect for me ultimately. The supporting characters are rubbish - the cowboy friend is like something out of a bad "quirky" short film and the super model girl has no *beep* personality at all... The old woman who's addicted to bingo? God, it's almost Father Ted territory and without the madcap humour or silliness to make such stereotypes genuinely funny.

Some of the music was quite well-used however, and it is still better than another moving/ funny film about the Holocaust or films about small boys and their relationships with wise old men who work in cinemas.
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I Walked Out.
eeleclair29 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie in Italia, in original language. It is a repulsive fantasy for an old man, with an eccentric soundtrack and cool camera angles to make it look "arty." In every scene is a female sex object-- a girl's volleyball team, a beauty queen, a new bride, the mother of a newborn, a nude girl sunbathing, two hookers in a bubble bath-- for the main character to ogle, grope, penetrate or threaten. If you like to see a repulsive male lead exploit his way through a cast of females, this is the film for you. Nudity and sex can be done well, but there is no real plot here, just a sequence of grotesque scenes that make you want to walk out and shower after.
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