Veteran writer-director Pupi Avati takes a rose-tinted trip through his recollections of childhood.
Veteran writer-director Pupi Avati takes a rose-tinted trip through his recollections of childhood in “The Friends of Bar Margherita,” a choral work that’s let down by lackluster editing and the characters themselves. Set in 1954 Bologna and drenched in nostalgia, the pic has an artificial glow that won’t illuminate anyone under 60, let alone offshore viewers. However, loyal local fans have helped the April 3 release rack up more than $3 million in three weeks.
Teen Taddeo (Pierpaolo Zizzi) acts as narrator and Avati stand-in, spending the first 12 minutes introducing the locals who frequent the male-only neighborhood cafe, Bar Margherita. Included are Al (Diego Abatantuono), a kingly billiard champ with an unspecified interest in a louche nightclub; Manuelo (Luigi Lo Cascio), a semi-hysterical car thief and sex fiend; and Bep (Neri Marcore), whose severe social awkwardness is cured when he falls for pretty prostitute Marcella (Laura Chiatti). Reveling in “innocent,” old-fashioned misogyny, the pic never builds up to anything, instead relying on jazzy incidental music to provide lift. Lighting and post-synched dialogue feel equally outdated.