Three years after his lackluster “A Chinese in a Coma,” veteran comic actor/director Carlo Verdone returns to the screen with an ambitious film humorously probing the contemporary ills of eight characters in group therapy. “It Can’t Be All Our Fault” starts with a catchy premise and, though slow in building steam, comes down the homestretch with a satisfying payoff. Well-penned and acted, this ensemble work retains a personal touch likely to persuade Verdone’s numerous fans onshore, while it has the solidity to make inroads in other Euro markets.
Five men and three women analyze one of their dreams in a group therapy session, while the elderly psychotherapist listens sphinx-like behind dark glasses. At long last someone realizes she has died of a heart attack.
This perfectly choreographed beginning gets pic off and running, but then Verdone and his scripters decide to democratically give a thumbnail of each character’s life and neurosis. Gege (Verdone) stands out as the brow-beaten son of a tyrannical factory owner. He tries to have a life with model Raquel Sueiro, but they aren’t made for each other.
The other patients run the gamut from an over-intellectualized gay man (Max Amato) who can’t break with his married lover; a schoolteacher (Margherita Buy) hungry for maternity who has the same problem with her married lover; an unfaithful husband (Antonio Catania) kicked out of the house by his wife, who rides trains all night rather than sleep in a residence; an anorexic college girl (Anita Caprioli) afraid to love and a young man (Stefano Pesce) who loves her; a woman in her 50s (Lucia Sardo) who pays for sex; and a quiet, religious orchestra member (Luciano Gubinelli) who still lives with his mother. This is quite a list to get through, and the story hits dead calm until it’s done.
When the characters finally meet again at the funeral, they realize they need each other to relieve their solitary torments. Failing to find another analyst, they try but botch self-managed therapy. Meanwhile Gege’s teenage son (Lorenzo Balducci), whom he hasn’t seen since birth because he’s afraid of flying, comes from Argentina on a visit. Gege’s naive excitement is chilled by his own father’s cold-hearted manipulation of the boy. Both as actor and director, Verdone steers a middle course between comic neurosis and true misery, depicting both with compassion.
Tone changes in the final scenes, set in a country inn where the self-help group goes to spend the weekend. Things finally relax and begin to work out for the better during a long, magical night.
As the overdressed bleached blonde afraid of aging, stage thesp Sardo brings pathos to her role, Amato is a refreshingly non-stereotyped gay, and young Caprioli’s screwed-up college student hits a lot of painfully real notes. But characteristic of Verdone’s world view, even the most poignant scenes have a flip side. With deadly Roman humor, characters hit each others’ weaknesses on the nail in killing one-liners. It’s a trick used over and over again, and is always effective in lightening up what is basically a quite serious film.
Tech work is simple and functional, leaving the emphasis on the characters and acting. Lele Marchitelli’s music is very listenable.