Alessandro Benvenuti’s 1990 film “Welcome to the Goris’ House” used a Christmas gathering as an occasion to dismantle the crumbling institution of the Italian family. “Return to the Goris’ House” picks up the same characters as they come together for a funeral. Distinguished by accomplished ensemble playing from a strong cast, this unforced, often melancholy comedy has opened well in Italy, especially in the director’s native Tuscany. Offshore festgoers might also tap into its minor-key humor.
Following the death of Adele (Ilaria Occhini), who appears as a benign spirit hovering over the household, the remaining members of the Gori family convene in their sprawling old home in small-town Tuscany to prepare for her funeral.
Widowed Gino (Carlo Monni) battles to come to terms with the loss; Adele’s sister Bruna (Athina Cenci) plans to ditch her Prozac-popping husband, Libero (Alessandro Haber), for the local gym proprietor; their daughter, Sandra (Sabrina Ferilli), and her spouse, Luciano (Benvenuti), rush back from an African vacation intended to iron out their marital kinks; clueless Danilo (Massimo Ceccherini) hides stolen loot in his mother’s coffin, and his unwanted, wheelchair-bound grandfather (Novello Novelli) agonizes over his solitude.
Both “Gori” films are loosely adapted from stage pieces in which former cabaret artist Benvenuti appears as the entire family. Working with regular script collaborator Ugo Chiti and with Francesca Marciano, he creates an eccentric portrait of everyday folk, pointing up but not caricaturing the familiar weaknesses and compromises of family relationships and smoothly steering characters toward their own resolutions as the funeral draws nearer.
Provincial town life also is well observed, with the house becoming progressively overrun with curious neighbors coming to pay their respects and gossip. These include a trio of black-veiled crones and a village simpleton with an uncontrollable masturbatory urge.
The work of the large cast is admirably balanced, with no character stepping unduly into the spotlight and Benvenuti himself keeping a low profile in the interests of making this a team enterprise. Especially enjoyable contributions come from veteran character actors Monni and Novelli.