A costumer about a 17th-century theater troupe, a playwright racing to finish his new work and the writer's amorous adventures, "Love in the Mirror" has more than a few echoes of "Shakespeare in Love." Unfortunately it has none of the earlier pic's wit, charm or intelligence. Instead, writer-director Salvatore Maira delivers large doses of pedestrian dialogue, leaden acting and a plot that meanders aimlessly for much of the running time. Pic is not likely to garner strong reviews and will almost certainly fail to make much of an impression in international waters. At best, it's a fest item.

A costumer about a 17th-century theater troupe, a playwright racing to finish his new work and the writer’s amorous adventures, “Love in the Mirror” has more than a few echoes of “Shakespeare in Love.” Unfortunately it has none of the earlier pic’s wit, charm or intelligence. Instead, writer-director Salvatore Maira delivers large doses of pedestrian dialogue, leaden acting and a plot that meanders aimlessly for much of the running time. Pic is not likely to garner strong reviews and will almost certainly fail to make much of an impression in international waters. At best, it’s a fest item.

Playwright Giovanni Andreini (Peter Stormare) runs the Company of Faithful Comics, a ragtag troupe dependent on the patronage of the Duke of Mantua. The duke finally gives in and allows them to fulfill Andreini’s lifelong dream of traveling to Paris — only after they’ve performed an erotic play for his personal pleasure. This play is the first of many opportunities for Maira to show naked bodies, mostly female, writhing around onscreen.

Then Andreini begins penning his new work for Paris, “Love in the Mirror,” which reflects what’s going on in his life. He is married to the company’s star actress, Virginia (Anna Galiena), whom he casts in the new play’s lead role. But things get complicated when a beautiful young woman, Lidia (Simona Cavallari), shows up out of the blue, tells him she adores his oeuvre and, though she has no stage experience, asks to become part of the troupe. Andreini, smitten by the mysterious gal, agrees, to the dismay of his jealous wife. Before you can say “Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow,” the playwright and the amateur actress are having a steamy affair, a turn of events that drives Virginia round the bend and — literally — into the nunnery. She then decides the best way to get even is by bedding Lidia herself.

Maira tackles well-worn themes, notably the relationship between art and real life, sexual jealousy and the struggle to maintain artistic integrity, but pic has nothing new or interesting to say. Story moves along at a haphazard pace, jumping randomly from episode to episode, and yarn is hard to follow in the early going. Stormare’s performance doesn’t help matters; he’s sorely lacking in charisma and looks haggard, and it’s hard to understand why these two women care about him so deeply. Galiena and Cavallari look gorgeous, at least, and bring the requisite mystery and sex appeal to their roles. Pic looks great and score is suitably lush.

Love in the Mirror

(COSTUME DRAMA -- ITALIAN)

Production

A Factory/G.M.F. production. (International sales: Factory, Rome.) Produced by Mariella Li Sacchi, Gian Marco Feletti. Directed, written by Salvatore Maira.

Crew

Camera (color), Maurizio Calvesi; editor, Alfredo Muschietti; music, Nicola Piovani; production designer, Antonello Geleng, Marina Pinzuti; costumes, Luigi Bonanno; sound, Cinecitta Servizi. Reviewed at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival (Gala), Sept. 17, 1999. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Virginia ..... Anna Galiena Giovanni Andreini ..... Peter Stormare Lidia ..... Simona Cavallari Prince Bassonpierre ..... Jacques Sernas
With: Maurizio Micheli, Eugenio Allegri, Quinto Parmeggiani.
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