In his most autobiographical film yet, prolific helmer Pupi Avati revisits his earlier incarnation as a jazz musician, thinly disguising his past to suggest the disappointment of a career sidetracked by life. Although he’s worked in similar territory before, notably “Jazz Band” and “Bix,” Avati makes “But When Do The Girls Get Here?” more personal, allowing bitterness about thwarted ambitions to leak through. Perhaps because of his closeness to the subject, pic narrates rather than explores, and Avati’s breezy style gets too caught up in enjoying the music at the expense of drama. Helmer’s international reputation may tweak arthouse interest, but locally, pic isn’t maintaining its strong opening.
Upper-middle-class sax player Giancarlo (Paolo Briguglia), Gianca for short, meets working-class trumpeter Nick (Claudio Santamaria) on a train heading for the Umbria Jazz Festival. Both guys are keyed up about auditioning for the music workshop, although Gianca’s years of training in a musical household contrast with Nick’s untutored, natural talent.
Once back in Bologna, grease monkey Nick is introduced to Gianca’s bourgeois family, including sis Gilberta (Selvaggia Quattrini) with whom he strikes up a romance. Meanwhile, the two musicians form a quintet with the crazy Maramotti brothers (Alessio Modica and Enrico Salimbeni) and more stable pianist Marcello (Augusto Fornari), in the hopes of breaking into the jazz scene.
Marcello’s illicit relationship with a wealthy benefactress (Eliana Miglio) pays off when she brings producers to a club to hear them. For the first time, Nick really gets into the swing, impressing everyone but also hogging the limelight. No surprise then, when he’s the one the producers call for. From here, it all becomes a predictable story pitting Nick’s soaring career against Gianca’s frustrated dreams.
The bitterness is compounded by family history: Gianca’s father Ludovico (popular entertainer Johnny Dorelli) is himself a frustrated musician who never got over his career switch to successful businessman. Pic’s title comes from Ludovico’s musings about adult responsibilities, opining that all’s clear and focused until the girls come on the scene, and then life’s path becomes unpredictable — although it’s awfully fun to have them around.
Notwithstanding Ludovico’s sentiment (which Gianca turns into a jazz composition), the women in the film don’t get much to work with. Vittoria Puccini, star of mega-hit TV series “Elisa di Rivombrosa,” looks pretty, but she’s stuck being merely an added source of tension between Gianca and Nick, never allowed to be more than the physical symbol of Gianca’s growing jealousies. Male stars Briguglia and Santamaria have a retro’70s charm, (although pic is set in the 1990s), and handle the jamming scenes with aplomb.
Tech credits on print viewed are problematic, as if rushed to screens before post-production was finished. Color values between shots occasionally don’t match, especially in the earlier scenes, and sound placement needs smoothing out; ditto the ubiquitous dubbing. Jazz tunes are enjoyable, although don’t expect the punchy flavor of “Young Man With a Horn.” Composer Riz Ortolani’s sugary incidental score, however, does no favors to the sometimes precious narration.