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For Roseanna

A very old-fashioned romantic comedy that wears its sentiment all over its sleeve, "For Roseanna," (originally titled "Roseanna's Grave") is a conventional European commercial picture that seems uncomfortably tilted toward Anglo-American audiences. With actors of at least four nationalities playing Italians, in English, in what aspires to be an authentic Italian folk tale, film possesses a slightly odd, out-of-place, out-of-time quality, even if the performances of leads Jean Reno and Mercedes Ruehl are the main things that keep the audience tuned in. Some older viewers could respond to this deliberate harking back to traditional movie and emotional values, but story is too ephemeral and artificial for a younger public to care, indicating slim chances for a domestic B.O. breakthrough. Foreign results, especially where Reno is a big star, could be better. Script reps the first bigscreen outing for vet American TV scribe Saul Turteltaub, whose credits date back to the Jackie Gleason and Carol Burnett comedy shows. Writing evinces both the glibness and neat construction talents of an old pro, as it attempts, with a degree of success, to wring a great deal of mileage out of a premise that could only be described these days as very low-concept, and shows plenty of know-how about getting into a scene, making the salient points and getting quickly out.

With:
Marcello ..... Jean Reno Roseanna ..... Mercedes Ruehl Cecilia ..... Polly Walker Antonio ..... Mark Frankel Iaccoponi ..... Trevor Peacock Francesca ..... Fay Ripley Sgt. Baggio ..... George Rossi Father Bramilla ..... Giuseppe Cederna Rossi ..... Roberto Della Casa Capestro ..... Luigi Diberti Dr. Benvenuto ..... Renato Scarpa Umberto ..... Romano Ghini

Set in a small Italian village that hasn’t changed much in perhaps 1,500 years, yarn spins on the frantic attempt of local restaurant owner Marcello (Reno) to secure a place for his dying wife, Roseanna (Ruehl), in a church cemetery next to their late daughter. This is a problem because only three plots remain and it is very unclear when Roseanna might expire, meaning that she could easily be beaten to the punch by other villagers for the unreservable spaces.

Plenty of low comedy is devoted to Marcello’s frantic efforts to keep ailing hospital patients alive in order to prevent the plots from filling up. But his best hope lies in convincing Capestro (Luigi Diberti), a bitter old man, to sell some of his land to the church so it can expand the cemetery. Harboring some grudge, however, Capestro refuses to consider it.

While doing all this, Marcello manages to keep his trattoria going with the help of his wife’s beautiful Roman sister, Cecilia (Polly Walker), whom Roseanna urges her husband to marry after her own demise. In the meantime, Cecilia is pursued by a handsome lawyer (the late Mark Frankel), who just happens to represent Capestro.

Through it all are intercut scenes of a prisoner, Iaccoponi (Trevor Peacock), being released and heading back to the village, where he expects to recover a large stash of money he left with a local man. Needless to say, the bundle no longer exists, and the ensuing drama leaves two people dead, enough to ruin Marcello’s dream of fulfilling his wife’s final wish. But there are still a few surprises left in this paean to enduring romantic love, surprises that, though thoroughly unbelievable, are designed to send the intended audience out happy.

Mastroianni would have been the perfect actor for this Marcello two or three decades back, but Reno does quite well by him, displaying energy to burn, utterly credible love for his wife and adroit comic timing, all of which help lift the material to sporadically engaging levels. Ruehl warmly portrays an innately wise woman forced to deal with all the ramifications of her demise well ahead of time. Other perfs are genial, even if the accents don’t always mesh.

Lovely setting of the village of Sermoneta and burnished widescreen lensing by Henry Braham go a long way to lulling the viewer into an escapist frame of mind, and director Paul Weiland keeps things moving. But pic is based on a slight, contrived conceit, the potential of which is mildly diverting at best.

For Roseanna

U.S-Italian

Production: A Fine Line Features release, presented in association with Spelling Films, of a Hungry Eye Trijbits/Worrell production. (International sales: Spelling Films Intl., L.A.) Produced by Paul Trijbits, Alison Owen, Dario Poloni. Executive producers, Ruth Vitale, Mark Ordesky, Jonathan Weisgal, Miles Donnelly. Directed by Paul Weiland. Screenplay, Saul Turteltaub.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Henry Braham; editor, Martin Walsh; music, Trevor Jones; production design, Rod McLean; costume design, Annie Hardinge; sound (Dolby digital/SDDS), Peter Lindsay; line producer, Chris Thompson; casting, Nina Gold. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 6, 1997. Running time: 98 MIN. (English dialogue)

With: Marcello ..... Jean Reno Roseanna ..... Mercedes Ruehl Cecilia ..... Polly Walker Antonio ..... Mark Frankel Iaccoponi ..... Trevor Peacock Francesca ..... Fay Ripley Sgt. Baggio ..... George Rossi Father Bramilla ..... Giuseppe Cederna Rossi ..... Roberto Della Casa Capestro ..... Luigi Diberti Dr. Benvenuto ..... Renato Scarpa Umberto ..... Romano Ghini

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