A spoiled rich bitch left in straitened circumstances by her husband’s death turns to the world’s oldest profession to earn some necessary dough in cheerfully non-PC sex comedy “Escort in Love.” Witty dialogue, funny sight-gags and savvy comic thesping lift Italian helmer Massimiliano Bruno’s feature debut above run-of-the-mill mainstream laffers, while the amiable eccentrics surrounding the imperious protagonist call to mind the great ensemble comedies of Mario Monicelli and Dino Risi. Grossing nearly $11.6 million during its spring domestic release, the pic reps entertaining fest fodder, as well as potential remake material in some markets.
As in screwball comedies of yore, part of the appeal is to see the haughty heroine taken down a few pegs, here via the riches-to-rags trajectory of tart-tongued Alice (Paola Cortelessi, who nabbed a David di Donatello actress award). Forced to sell her luxurious villa in the north of Rome, Alice and her adorable 9-year-old, Filippo (Giovanni Bruno, the director’s son), wind up on a rooftop in the Eternal City’s multiethnic, working-class Quarticciolo neighborhood.
Facing debtor’s prison and the loss of Filippo to social services if she can’t come up with a large sum of money fast, Alice enlists the help of Eva (Anna Foglietta), a high-priced escort who changes life philosophies as easily as she doffs her clothes. The scenes in which Eva tries to mold her protege’s fashion sense, personal grooming habits and seduction skills are a hoot.
Meanwhile, back in Quarticciolo, the friendly locals (including Rocco Papaleo, Lucia Occone and Pasquale Petrolo) embrace the lonely Filippo, who starts to blossom. It takes Alice longer to warm to her new wonderland, but the sparks she strikes with sexy Internet cafe owner Giulio (Raoul Bova, who won an Italian Golden Globe for the role) move the process along.
Thanks to Eva and a helpful gay stylist (Massimiliano Delgado), Alice lands some “special needs” clients. Her interactions with them up the ante for inventive running jokes, as do the repeated attempts by the former girlfriend (Caterina Guzzanti) of Giulio’s sad-sack employee Biagio (Valerio Aprea) to win him back, one of which involves noted singer Fausto Leali. And in an echo of current headlines, there’s even a scene in which escorts gather to party on a powerful politician’s yacht.
Better known as an actor and screenwriter, tyro director Bruno displays an astute understanding of comic tone and timing. His screenplay, co-written with Fausto Brizzi and Edoardo Falcone, breezes along at a breakneck pace playing intelligently with stereotypes, making clever use of song lyrics and bursting with little comic details such as the hilariously titled porn films Eva recommends to Alice.
The tech package is solid, although the overall visual aesthetic is a tad too smallscreen. A colorful song-and-dance sequence under the closing credits ends things on a lively note.