Co-writer and director Alessandro Genovesi’s adaptation of Anthony J. Wilkinson’s off-Broadway play has a nice cast and a tough edge, but throws it all frustratingly away.
Originally titled Puoi Baciare Lo Sposo (You May Now Kiss The Groom) in Italian, for some reason, this wants it both ways – serious, weightily-themed drama alongside audience-pleasing laughs – and then decides to take all the plot threads and cast them aside in a final sequence that demonstrates that Genovesi (and Wilkinson) simply didn’t know how to end it. Some might find this sweetly charming, but it feels like a cheat, especially as the play was reportedly considered quite radical when first performed back in 2003.
The Italian Antonio (Cristiano Caccamo) lives in Berlin, and we first see him in a falling-in-love montage where the camera adopts the adoring perspective of Paolo (Salvatore Esposito, star of darker movies like Gomorrah). Antonio proposes and Paolo says yes, but then the problems kick in as Antonio realises that he must go back to the town of his youth and seek the approval of his parents, Mayor Roberto (Diego Abatantuono) and Anna (Monica Gerritore), who of course don’t know that he’s gay.
They’re accompanied on the trip by their landlady Benedetta (Diana Del Bufalo) and new flatmate Donato (Dino Abbrescia), who they barely know but drag along for highly contrived reasons. When they arrive at the mountaintop town (Civita di Bagnoregio), there’s a standout sequence where Roberto speaks immodestly about his supposedly progressive views at a council meeting (he almost brags about having allowed refugees to live in the town), but then he becomes furious when the news of his son’s sexuality is announced and turns particularly mean.
Anna offers her hypocritical hubby tough ultimatums in hard scenes unusual for a comedy, but we keep coming back to yet another character, Camilla (Beatrice Arnera), Antonio’s childhood-friend-and-brief-fling-turned-semi-psycho-stalker. Camille has pursued him to Bagnoregio and keeps insisting that he’s not gay, and it all gets a bit painful as she hams it up on the sidelines, refusing to take no for an answer.
But there’s so much else going on: a celebrity wedding planner (Enzo Miccio as himself) pops in and out; Antonio must prepare to play Jesus, no less, in the annual Easter Passion Play; Paolo’s Mum is estranged (or is she?); and the whole elaborate and expensive ceremony is improbably planned in about 24 hours.
And then, at the climax, the film commits a pretty grievous sin, something that probably worked better on the stage and in its less Italian version, but which here just feels like a rip-off. Come on guys, like the song says, please don’t leave us this way!
My Big Gay Italian Wedding (M) is in cinemas now