Veteran Italian actress Stefania Sandrelli has some hammy fun in “We’ll Really Hurt You” as a spotlight-seeking former screen star reduced to pulling stunts for the paparazzi. But aside from the amusing star turn and splendid locations in wildlife-laden Abruzzo National Park, actor-director Pino Quartullo’s play about two animal lovers who kidnap a fur-endorsing diva gains little in its transfer to film. Timing is off and rhythm too erratic in this flatly directed eco-comedy, which looks unlikely to do much commercial damage beyond Euro TV.
Reprising her stage role, Sandrelli plays Federica Birki, a once-serious actress now hosting a trash-TV gameshow sponsored by a furrier. When she is abducted by park ranger Marco (Quartullo) and his brother Ruggero (Ricky Memphis), who demand the closure of the company’s fur farm and the release of its animals, Federica’s history of fabricating news to boost her flagging media profile means the threats are not taken seriously.
Borrowing liberally from the 1986 Bette Midler starrer “Ruthless People,” the script (by Quartullo and film critic Claudio Masenza, who also co-wrote the play) allows Federica to get the upper hand over the clueless brothers. She begins orchestrating headline-news developments while they attempt to sensitize her so that she loves animals and loathes fur coats. But her plans for a media splash are foiled by the corrupt sponsor (Rocco Barbaro) and ambitious publicist (Nathalie Caldonazzo), who want the shrewish star out of the way, forcing her to conspire with her kidnappers.
Dipping into her own screen history via clips from Pietro Germi’s 1963 comedy “Seduced and Abandoned,” Sandrelli builds a campy, none-too-subtle caricature of a washed-up actress driven to make undignified career choices. More than anyone, she recalls former Fellini star Sandra Milo. But while the comedy constructed around this character has some good ideas and may have functioned onstage, its mechanisms seem poorly oiled on film, and its energy is sapped by a general slackness in the writing and direction.