It may be set in the present, but novice helmer Giovanni Morricone's comic romance "Instructing the Heart" feels stuck in '70s TV land. From the ultra predictable plot to the relentlessly chipper music (co-scored by dad Ennio), the borrowing arc stretches from the "MTM Show" to "Bridget Jones," as a frustrated woman maneuvers through singledom desperately seeking Prince Charming.

It may be set in the present, but novice helmer Giovanni Morricone’s comic romance “Instructing the Heart” feels stuck in ’70s TV land. From the ultra predictable plot to the relentlessly chipper music (co-scored by dad Ennio), the borrowing arc stretches from the “MTM Show” to “Bridget Jones,” as a frustrated woman maneuvers through singledom desperately seeking Prince Charming. Despite a large release, Italians haven’t exactly been turned on with her smile, although tube and video life may make it all seem worthwhile.

Lorenza (Claudia Gerini) is 29 and unhappily single. She catches a news item on TV about a hapless guy named Riccardo (the busy Pierfrancesco Favino) who is threatening suicide unless someone gives him a job. She calls his cell phone and suggests he become her paid escort so that her competitive bitchy friends think she has a b.f., but the job is strictly asexual.

The situation is cozy until he falls for her, and she surprises herself by reciprocating. Then payday arrives and she tests his intentions by leaving him a check, which he tears up out of love. In pure sitcom mode, the pieces get blown out of sight, and she assumes he’s off to the bank. Angry and frustrated, she runs into the arms of dentist Giulio (Pierre Cosso), who seems perfect in every way. But she just can’t shake Riccardo from her mind.

Performances are lackluster from talent who’ve shown their worth in superior vehicles. Only the sexy Sabrina Impacciatore, as Lorenza’s firecracker friend Paola, livens up the proceedings. Lensing is competent, but Morricone needs to find a less formulaic style if a sophomore effort is to succeed.

Instructing The Heart

Italy

Production

A Medusa release of a Medusa production, in association with ACHAB Film. Produced by Renzo Porcelli. Directed by Giovanni Morricone. Screenplay by Rosa A. Menduni, Roberto De Giorgi.

Crew

Camera (color), Giulio Pietromarchi; editor, Mirco Garrone; music, Ennio and Andrea Morricone; production designer, Sonia Peng; costume designer, Cristina Francioni; sound (Dolby digital), Andrea Petrucci. Reviewed at Multisala Barberini, Rome, Dec. 11, 2003. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Claudia Gerini, Pierfrancesco Favino, Sabrina Impacciatore, Pierre Cosso, Giovanni Esposito, Francesca Antonelli, Elda Alvigini, Paola Minaccioni, Tatiana Lepore, Irene Ivaldi, Valentina Carnelutti, Conchita Puglisi, Giuditta Saltarini, Vanni Materassi, Patrizia Sacchi, Sergio Di Giulio, Pierfrancesco Poggi, Paolo Calabresi, Marta Zoffoli.
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