Corny as a vat of polenta, but still rib-sticking, Italy-set "Love Is All You Need" offers a romantic comedy for middle-aged palettes.

Corny as a vat of polenta, but still rib-sticking enough to satisfy those who like lightly seasoned, easily digestible cinematic starch, Italy-set “Love Is All You Need” offers a romantic comedy for middle-aged palettes. Helmer Susanne Bier takes a welcome break from melodramas such as “In a Better World” to make Pierce Brosnan’s widowed grump fall for Trine Dyrholm’s cheerful cancer survivor when his son and her daughter prepare to marry in Sorrento. English dialogue and pic’s “Mamma Mia!”-like elements – without the Abba songs, of course – could give pic an extra B.O. bump beyond its natural specialist constituency offshore.

At a Copenhagen hospital, warm-hearted hairdresser Ida (major Danish thesp Dyrhom, co-star of “In a Better World”) is first met being told that she’ll have to wait and see if she’s beaten the cancer that’s cost her part of a breast. When she gets home, she catches her husband Leif (Kim Bodnia) in flagrante delicto on the couch with bimbo Tilde (Christiane Schaumburg-Muller), precipitating a separation for the married couple, who vow to meet up in Italy for their daughter’s upcoming wedding and put on a show of unity there.

Meanwhile, across town, Brit Philip (Brosnan), a fruit-and-vegetable magnate, prepares to fly south for the wedding as well. At the airport, a highly unlikely car-accident meet-cute is contrived to introduce Philip to Ida, who duly argue and annoy each other at first according to genre convention. They make their way together to the villa Philip owns in Sorrento, a house he’s not inhabited since his Danish wife died years ago, but which his only son Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) and soon-to-be-daughter-in-law Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind, a real find with her strong features and acting chops) have fixed up for the nuptials.

As the other guests start to arrive, including the Philip’s loathsome one-time sister-in-law Benedikte (Paprika Steen, on deliciously bitchy form) and Leif with Tilde in tow, tensions start to escalate, not least between Patrick and Astrid themselves, both aware they’re not quite as well matched as they want to be. Auds well-versed in the rules of contempo romantic comedies won’t find it hard to guess why, especially given Patrick’s lack of enthusiasm for pre-marital sex.

Screenplay by Bier and her frequent collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen (indeed, the go-to scripter for most of shingle Zentropa’s roster of helmers) has a more convincing touch with the femme characters than the men, who are a pretty boring lot by and large. Brosnan, looking suave but shallow as ever, does his best to twinkle but even he can’t really make much with Philip, an arthouse stud-monkey designed with precise calculation to appeal to the fantasies of femme viewers of a certain age. (He’s got money! He knows about botany! He thinks Ida’s beautiful even though she’s lost all her hair to chemotherapy!)

The ladies, on the other hand, have more heft as people, from generous-spirited but endearingly ditsy Ida, through vile Benedikte who never passes up a chance to undermine her teenage daughter (Frederikke Thomassen), to insecure Astrid. They also get most of pic’s funniest lines, although the zingers are a little fewer and further apart than this sort of material requires to ensure strong word of mouth. The comedy is too embedded in the situation and not enough in the dialogue to give it the right screwball fizz it needs to lock down crossover potential.

That said, Bier shuffles the dramatic pieces competently enough around the board, while she and editors Pernille Bech Christensen and Morten Egholm never pass up an opportunity to throw up another postcard view of pink sunsets, blue waters or sienna-colored rooftops to mark a temporal transition. Lensing by Morten Soborg errs perhaps too much on the lurid side, pushing the primary colors to almost-cartoonish levels of luminosity.

For the record, pic’s Danish title, “Den skaldede frisor” means “The Bald Hairdresser,” almost as bad a moniker as the insipid, contextually meaningless English title.

Love Is All You Need

Denmark-Sweden-Italy-France-Germany-Japan Danish, English dialogue

Production

CREDITS: A Nordisk Film Distribution release of a Zentropa Entertainments29 presentation, in co-production with Lumiere & Co., Slot Machine, Zentropa International France, Film I Vast, Zentropa Entertainments Berlin, Zentropa International Sweden, DR, Sveriges Television, Arte France Cinema, Network Movie, ZDF/Arte, Longride, with the support of the Danish Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, Nordisk Film & TV Fund, CanalPlus, Cine Plus, Cine Plus, Rai Cinema. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre.) Produced by Sisse Graum Jorgensen, Vibeke Windelov. Executive producers, Peter Aalbæk Jensen, Peter Garde. Co-producer, Charlotte Pedersen. Directed by Susanne Bier. Screenplay, Anders Thomas Jensen, based on a story by Bier and Jensen.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Morten Soborg; editors, Pernille Bech Christensen, Morten Egholm; music, Johan Soderqvist; music supervisor, Pernille Bech Christensen; production designer, Peter Grant; art director, Tamara Marini; set decorator, Tamara Marini; costume designer, Signe Sejlund; sound (Dolby Digital), Allan Holmberg; sound design, Eddie Simonsen, Anne Jensen; visual effects supervisor, Lars Werner "Lalo"; visual effects, Slowmotion FX; line producer, Riccardo Pintus; associate producer, Sidsel Hybschmann; assistant directors, Joakim Hoglund, Carlo Paramidani; casting, Lene Seested, Line Kromann, Leo Davis. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (out of competition), Sept. 2, 2012.Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Philip - Pierce Brosnan
Ida - Trine Dyrholm
Astrid - Molly Blixt Egelind
Patrick - Sebastian Jessen
Benedikte - Paprika Steen
Leif - Kim Bodnia
Tilde - Christiane Schaumburg-Muller
Kenneth - Micky Skeel Hansen
Alexandra - Frederikke Thomassen

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