A better movie than appears onscreen lurks within "Cover Boy ... The Last Revolution," but helmer Carmine Amoroso hasn't figured out how to pull it out from the excess nonsense. As a tract against consumerism and the overimportance of status, the pic has much that hits the mark, but the screenplay loses itself halfway through and considerably weakens the tale of a Romanian illegal immigrant and his friendship with a hard-luck Italian.

A better movie than appears onscreen lurks within “Cover Boy … The Last Revolution,” but helmer Carmine Amoroso hasn’t figured out how to pull it out from the excess nonsense. As a tract against consumerism and the overimportance of status, the pic has much that hits the mark, but the screenplay loses itself halfway through and considerably weakens the tale of a Romanian illegal immigrant and his friendship with a hard-luck Italian. Frustration is palpable because there’s plenty to praise, though offshore Italo fests will probably be the sole takers.

A beautifully edited montage running through the Cold War and the fall of Ceausescu gets things rolling, followed by the random shooting of young Ioan’s father Florin (Gabriel Spahiu) on the revolutionary streets of Bucharest. Cut to the present, and 23-year-old Ioan (dancer-choreographer Eduard Gabia) is convinced by a friend to join him in Italy. On the train, the friend gets hauled off by immigration, and Ioan arrives in Rome alone and without prospects.

Michele (Luca Lionello, Judas in “The Passion of the Christ”), a janitor in the main train station, takes pity on Ioan and offers to rent him space in his apartment. Gradually the two hit it off, though Ioan seems oblivious to Michele’s sexual interest.

Work is haphazard for them both: Ioan is illegal, and Michele, at 40, hardly qualifies as a success story. Landlady Luciana (well-known comic Luciana Littizzetto) barely tolerates Michele’s tardy payments, but her patience is wearing thin.

Everything changes when Ioan is rescued from squeegee hell by photographer Laura (Chiara Caselli), who decides he has an authentic something about him. She pulls him off the street, gets him papers and sets him on the catwalks of Milan in an overextended and ridiculously improbable about-face that considerably weakens the pic’s thrust, notwithstanding the revelations of Laura’s venal motives.

If only Amoroso had been satisfied with detailing the burgeoning friendship between Ioan and Michele, he could have sharpened his critique of rampant capitalism and perhaps even said something new about the tired “closeted gay man in love with his straight roommate” story. He’s created fully formed, complex characters, but is unsure where to take them: Much more could have been made of Michele, a man unable to lift himself out of society’s margins and express something as fundamental as his sexuality.

Comparing Michele’s status as a marginalized Italian to Ioan’s illegal immigrant is thought-provoking, and it’s refreshing to find an East European who maintains an emotional connection to his home country. But again, Amoroso fails to develop the concepts and instead throws in pointless fashion-world scenes that seriously compromise his aims.

At his best with actors, Amoroso deploys a cinematic style that combines moments of restrained elegance with the occasional overly simplistic setup. It’s been 10 years since his last directorial effort, “As You Want Me,” and the current pic’s unevenness certainly suggests a talented but inexperienced director at the helm. Blow-up from HD is fault-free.

Cover Boy...The Last Revolution

Italy

Production

A Filand production. (International sales: Istituto Luce, Rome.) Produced by Giuliana Gamba, Augusto Allegra, Arturo Paglia. Executive producer, Isabella Cocuzza. Directed by Carmine Amoroso. Screenplay, Amoroso, Filippo Ascione.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Paolo Ferrari; editor, Luca Manes; music, Marco Falagiani, Okapi; production designer, Biagio Fersini; costume designer, Alessandro Bentivegna; sound (Dolby Digital), Stefano di Fiore. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Cinema of the Future), Jan. 26, 2007. (Also in Palm Springs Film Festival.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Eduard Gabia, Luca Lionello, Chiara Caselli, Luciana Littizzetto, Francesco Dominedo, Gabriel Spahiu, Razvan Cacoveanu. (Italian, Romanian dialogue)
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