'Love Island' Review: Jasmila Zbanic's Cringe-Worthy

Jasmila Zbanic attempts a lighthearted change of pace and winds up with a cringe-inducing misfire.

Helmers with an impressive run of serious-issue movies should be applauded for changing style occasionally and making comedies, yet Jasmila Zbanic’s cringe-worthy “Love Island” is a misfire on all counts. Set in a Croatian summer resort populated by kooky holiday makers, this Europudding laffer follows a couple whose marriage turns rocky when the pregnant wife reconnects with her first love, another woman. Aiming for a “Mamma Mia” vibe but even more cartoonish, the pic will no doubt get decent distribution in Europe, and may see respectable returns in dubbed versions.

French Liliane (Ariane Labed, “Alps,” “Before Midnight”) and Bosnian Grebo (Ermin Bravo, in his third Zbanic film) come to the coast from Sarajevo for sun and fun. Grebo in particular lets loose, demonstrating his former-rocker chords to an appreciative audience of vacationers who are keen to party. Then Liliane locks eyes with Flora (Ada Condeescu, “Loverboy”), the entertainment hostess at the resort, and she’s thrown for a loop. Some years earlier the women had been lovers, and the flame remains, despite Liliane’s attempts to snuff it out. Grebo also has the hots for Flora, who isn’t above some serious flirtation in the hopes of breaking up the marriage and winning back her ex-g.f.

It would be nice to report that “Love Island” takes a sophisticated approach to lesbianism and bisexuality, but nothing on the screen remotely approaches sophistication. Colors are loud, maturity levels are infantile, and the gags are subpar. Bravo is made to look as unattractive as possible, his hairy, pale body stuffed into an embarrassing Speedo that results in a vulgar bulge shot more suited to the “Porky’s” franchise. Zbanic (“Grbavica, “For Those Who Can Tell No Tales”) has a knack for addressing how the past infects the present, yet here the concept is reduced to its lowest factor, and the pic is singularly devoid of any political or social statements.

That wouldn’t be a problem if the comedy were spry and clever, but that’s not the case. English line delivery is often unnatural — a pity, given the previously proven talents of the actors involved — and the costume designer obviously hated Condeescu. Franco Nero’s small role as a horny Italian aristocrat spouting poetic lines at the ladies is best passed over without comment.

As with all summer resort movies, music is a key element, so the Scorpion’s song “Wind of Change” is heard in multiple reiterations. Zbanic’s regular d.p. Christine A. Maier is once again collaborating, and the visuals fit the oversaturated, superficial atmosphere.

Film Review: 'Love Island'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 7, 2014. (Also in Sarajevo Film Festival – Open Air.) Running time: 86 MIN.

Production

(Croatia-Germany-Switzerland-Bosnia-Herzegovina) A Ziva Produkcija, Komplizen Film, Okofilm Prods., Deblokada production, in collaboration with Arte, HRT. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Damir Ibrahimovic, Leon Lucev. Coproducers, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach, Andrea Staka, Thomas Imbach. Executive producers, Fred Roos, Franco Nero, Dzemila Arnautovic, Erika Maier, Christine A. Maier.

Crew

Directed by Jasmila Zbanic. Screenplay, Aleksandar Hemon, Zbanic. Camera (color, widescreen), Christine A. Maier; editor, Isabel Meier; music, Balz Bachmann; production designer, Zeljka Buric; costume designer, Lejla Hodzic; sound, Igor Camo, Jacob Ilgner; assistant director, Aldo Tardozzi; casting, Timka Grahic, Oriana Kuncic, Ulrike Mueller.

With

Ariane Labed, Ermin Bravo, Ada Condeescu, Franco Nero, Leon Lucev, Branka Petric Fehmiu, Lee Delong, Bojana Gregoric Vejzovic, Nadija Husetic, Aleks Rakos. (English, Croatian, Bosnian, French, Italian dialogue)

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