Edoardo Leo’s latest feature is a buddy comedy about a group of guys who decide to pitch in and buy a farmhouse to live out their dreams of owning a rural bed and breakfast. They soon learn why the property they bought was so cheap when members of the local mafia begin knocking on their door demanding hush money. Thanks to some impulsive actions and their undying ambition, the friends find themselves in a sticky situation with a mafioso in their cellar, a vintage Giulia under their lawn and opening day quickly approaching.
Noi e la Giulia is first of all very clever and well made. It features some spectacularly hilarious dialogue and some great acting talent by the main cast which features the film’s director as the boorish, racist Fausto who is the predominant comic relief until Sergio joins them. Sergio is cut in on the farmhouse profits by Fausto who owes him thousands of euro and soon reveals himself to be a staunch Marxist whose communist ideology inspires his actions. He is comedic in his undying devotion to a disproven political theory as well as his grab-life-by-the-guts personality. Contrasted with the extremely timid worrywart Claudio and the overly cautious Diego, who begins to slowly come out of his shell as the movie progresses, Sergio and Fausto are knee-slapping hilarious.
The only female in the movie is Elisa, a timid former waitress. After being jilted by her boyfriend of almost twenty years, she rebelled against her good-girl image and began to sow some wild oats. The result is a punky looking woman with an almost-to-term pregnancy who is invited by Claudio to cook for the upcoming B&B before the drama with the mafia. When Elisa arrives, she is at first sheltered from the men’s secret and told to leave until she discovers the prisoners in the cellar and demands an explanation. Diego gives her one (there is an inevitable love affair blossoming between these two) and to everyone’s surprise, instead of running away to calling the police, Elisa helps them get out of their mess.
This surprising turn in Elisa’s personality is great because it saves her from being the timid damsel. Once let in on the secret, she realizes just how hapless these men are and decides that she’s going to be the one to use common sense and find solutions to their problems. Initially I cringed, because her first solution was to lend her feminine touch to decorating the farmhouse so that it look presentable for opening day. But this just turns out to be her way of gaining the men’s trust. After that, she is accepted and not only seen as an equal, but is listened to without debate when she makes a decision.
When the group is surprised by their first guests, it is Elisa who takes the lead, invites them in, serves them and directs the others in what to do to make everything look professional. Overjoyed with the service, they guests decide to spend the night, marking the B&B an official success with its first customers.
In a country where women get fired for being pregnant, Elisa’s pregnancy is nothing more than a character trait in the realm of the film. It does not hinder her and is used almost as a plot device when we first meet her and are meant to feel sorry for her when she’s told to leave. Elisa digs ditches, fights bad guys and kicks ass with the rest of the men despite her pregnancy. Though she admits that she doesn’t know who the father is, she makes a poignant statement when revealing this fact to a shocked and alarmed Diego, saying that she knows that the baby is hers and that’s all that matters. I don’t know about you, but I think Elisa’s pretty bad ass.
Noi e la Giulia is one of those caper comedies that you could probably watch over and over again without getting bored. The cast is spot on and the script well-written with an ambiguous ending that falls just shy of being corny. There’s not much more you can ask for in a movie nowadays.
Noi e la Giulia screens at Colossus Vaughan on June 16 @ 9:00pm, Cinema Guzzo Montreal on June 17 @ 1:00 PM and June 19 @ 7:00pm, and TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 17 @ 7:00pm.
Sarah is covering the Italian Contemporary Film Festival which runs in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City from June 11-19. For more festival coverage, click here!