Finding supercilious avant-garde music star Goffredo (Antonio Petrocelli) in his place as companion to Beatrice and father to their daughter, Tonina (Sara Anticoli), Antonio attempts to remove the usurper and reclaim his family. Beatrice has no intention of taking him back after his unexplained disappearance, but Antonio’s persistence proves formidable.
Working on automatic pilot, the signature of co-writer Vincenzo Cerami, a regular Roberto Benigni collaborator, is evident in the script’s reliance on easy emotional hooks, including the instant bond between Tonina and her childlike father, and in neglecting to contextualize the eccentric characters in a believable environment.
But rudimentary as it is, the scenario provides ample space for Albanese to exercise his extraordinary physical comedy skills as Antonio slowly insinuates himself back into the lives of Beatrice and Tonina. The actor is a flesh-and-blood cartoon in perpetual motion, at times moving with robotic purposefulness, at others like a dancing, rubber-limbed clown, constantly playing with and puzzling over key words and phrases.
The pic is by no means a purely personal showcase; secondary characters are given more attention than is often the case in star-driven Italian comedies. Beatrice’s love of the borderline-certifiable oddball might seem absurd, but Milillo gives her a sweet, slightly daffy quality that somehow makes them a credible couple. Petrocelli more than holds his own against Albanese, creating an amusingly inflated, bourgeois prig in Goffredo.
As with fellow comics like Benigni and Carlo Verdone, Albanese’s direction is centered mainly on performance, but there is a germ here of a more ambitious filmmaking approach. Standout tech contribution is Nicola Piovani’s obsessively jaunty score, which delightfully mimics Albanese’s bizarre rhythms. Lenser Massimo Pau also captures the right spirit with his quirky low-angle shots and unconventional feel for the Milan locations.