The Perfect Life

The newer of two features by Italo helmer Lucio Pellegrini in the Montreal World fest, "The Perfect Life" is of a piece with his other entry, "Unlikely Revolutionaries," in that both flirt with serious themes yet stay breezily noncommittal about probing any further than light comedy and romance will allow.

Cast:
With: Stefano Accorsi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Vittoria Puccini, Camilla Filippi, Angelo Orlando, Eliana Miglio, Souleymane Sow, Max Tardioli, Ivano Marescotti. (Italian, Swahili dialogue)

Esteemed surgeon Mario (Pierfrancesco Favino, also toplining “Revolutionaries”) is urged by his hospital chief to lay low for a while due to a percolating scandal, though he doesn’t share the reasons with clotheshorse wife Ginevra (Vittoria Puccini). Neither does he tell their longtime friend Luca (Stefano Accorsi), whom he decides to visit in Kenya, at least until the heat’s off. Luca has been a surgeon at a humble charity compound for some years, his expatriation due, as flashbacks soon inform, to a lost battle for Ginevra’s hand.

When Mario lands in Kenya, he’s appalled at the primitive “hospital,” poor supplies and lack of creature comforts. Nonetheless, he settles in with some aplomb, instigating a staff dance party his first night, taking over when Luca gets the requisite local version of Montezuma’s Revenge, and adopting a tubercular but rambunctious little boy (Max Tardioli).

Luca is a bit irked by his glib, self-centered friend’s ease at winning everyone over. But he’s considerably more discomfited when Ginevra impulsively decides to pay them a visit, treating it as an off-grid vacation (albeit one with oppressive heat and biting insects). She doesn’t shrink from encouraging Luca’s still-roiling attraction to her, particularly when the tempest Mario has brewed back home forces hubby to make a short return trip.

Kitted out with amiable subplots, some impressive scenery and plenty of comedy, things move along engagingly enough until a last-act Robin Hood caper, one that resolves itself with an ironic knife-twist the screenplay has done nothing to prepare us for, making the bit of final-act vengeance less than satisfying.

The pic’s various lightweight pleasures — particularly Favino, in fine form making all Mario’s foibles funny and likable — compensate for its lack of depth. Tech and design aspects are glossy.

The Perfect Life

Italy

Production: A Fandango production in association with Medusa. (International sales: Fandango, Rome.) Produced by Gianluca Chiaretti. Directed by Lucio Pellegrini. Screenplay, Stefano Bises, Andrea Salerno, Laura Paolucci.

Crew: Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Gogo Bianchi; editor, Walter Fasano; music, Gabriele Roberto; production designer, Roberto De Angelis; costume designer, Silvia Nebiolo; sound, Valentino Gianni; re-recording mixer, Francesco Cucinelli; assistant director, Alessandro Casale; casting, Casale. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 20, 2011. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Stefano Accorsi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Vittoria Puccini, Camilla Filippi, Angelo Orlando, Eliana Miglio, Souleymane Sow, Max Tardioli, Ivano Marescotti. (Italian, Swahili dialogue)

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