The father-son relationship here would have been more affective, if there was a canvas.
Now keep in mind that “Made in Italy,” the directorial debut of actor James D’Arcy, is streaming on various sites now, but it’s the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since “The Hunt” and “I Still Believe” last March just before COVID-19 shut them all down. I live in New Jersey, which is one of the states to still have their theaters shut down, and I traveled to Portland, Maine to see it. That’s how.
It’s a mixed bag for me, because it offers humor and heart, but somehow, it never really seems to paint rainbows. I’m saying that, because the father-son story here involves a bohemian artist father named Robert (Liam Neeson) and his estranged son Jack (Michel Richardson from “Cold Pursuit”).
We meet Jack as a young art gallery manager from London, whose soon-to-be ex-wife (Yolanda Kettle) plans to take full possession of her family’s gallery. He plans to buy it, but with what? Since he isn’t financially stable. His only recourse is to travel to Tuscany, Italy with his father Robert to sell their own of summer home.
Jack hasn’t been there since he was 7, when his mother passes away, and now, the place is in ruins. Who am I kidding? It’s a dump! The front door is broken, there’s a weasel in the John, and there’s a vine branch going through a window. The real estate agent Kate (Lindsay Duncan) is highly doubtful it will go on the market, but the two start to fix it up.
Lame movies about shabby places include “Are We Done Yet” and “Black Sheep,” and while “Made in Italy” has some funny moments, it still felt labored and recycled. The one scene that made me laugh the most is when Jack and Robert deal with the weasel by planning to scare it out the window, which is closed. It just seemed ticklish the way it was handled. But the rest has to rely on wet paint jokes, dusty hair, and cold showers just to keep things rolling along.
You also get a heartwarming scene that reveals how the father and son both lost their ways, but it has to be followed by the obligatory movie turning point. The performances from Neeson and Richardson are both fine as they transcend from one emotion and genre to the next, but you don’t really get any sharp dialogue from them.
A subplot in the movie that works only in the first act, involves Jack’s interests in a beautiful Italian single mother (Valeria Bilello) who just came of out a bad divorce, and runs a nice restaurant she fixed for the pat five years. There’s something charming about her, but her story is never really delivered in a provocative or honest way.
I’m glad to see this movie in a theater again, the way movies were meant to be seen, but I wish “Made in Italy” took more risks and cut back on the typical humor and drama. I did laugh and tear a few times, but it’s not really something I’d view again and again.
Streaming online and in select theaters