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Love Returns

Sergio Rubini fails to bring a script to life in his directing effort, "Love Returns." Tale of a self-centered actor preparing to direct his first film, but who is struck down by illness, with a friendly ghost thrown in for good measure. A top Italo cast is wasted on a film unable to find a convincing tone or plausible storyline.

With:
Luca - Fabrizio Bentivoglio Giacomo - Sergio Rubini Silvia - Margherita Buy Lena - Giovanna Mezzogiorno Federica - Mariangela Melato

Sergio Rubini, who has a moving moment in “The Passion of the Christ” playing the Good Thief, fails to bring a confused script to life in his sixth directing effort, “Love Returns.” Tale of a self-centered actor preparing to direct his first film, but who is struck down by illness, recalls everything from Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” to Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions,” with a friendly ghost thrown in for good measure. A top Italo cast is wasted on a film unable to find a convincing tone or plausible storyline, forecasting unexciting box office returns for this WB presentation. The hysteria-ridden funeral of a young girl in Italy’s southern region of Puglia starts pic off on a strident note. Much later, it becomes clear this is the native region of the hero and his family. Gun-toting spacemen in an underground future world appear next, but they’re revealed to be part of a film set where Luca (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), a popular actor, is working. After a cranky fight with a producer for whom he’s supposed to be making his directing debut, the mood shifts to drama as he starts spitting up blood in his trailer and is taken to the hospital for tests.

Finally ensconced in an expensive Milan clinic, Luca is forced to slow down and, fighting his worst fears, watch his friends, family and colleagues perform the rituals of cheering up a patient who seems headed for the other world. Among them are his nervous ex-wife (Margherita Buy) and hyper young girlfriend (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), both famous actresses; a comic doctor from his hometown (Rubini); and an assistant (Antonio Prisco) who is secretly in love with him. Meanwhile, the dead girl from the first scene returns to their native village as a ghost whose apparent task it is to help him.

These and many more story elements are incautiously strung together in narrative cacophony. Bentivoglio, rather haplessly placed at the center of it all, predictably arcs from childish egoism to mature understanding. Other thesps, like the normally sensitive Mezzogiorno and Rubini, overshoot the mark in silly caricatures, while a series of famous faces — Umberto Orsini, Mariangela Melato, Michele Placido — turn up in irritating cameos.

Tech credits are eclectic and whimsical.

Love Returns

Italy

Production: A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation of a Biancafilm production in association with Warner Bros. Produced by Donatella Botti. Directed by Sergio Rubini. Screenplay, Rubini, Domenico Starnone, Carla Cavalluzzi.

Crew: Camera (color), Paolo Carnera; editor, Massimo Fiocchi; music, Ivan Iusco, Pierluigi Ferrandini; production designer, Luca Gobbi; sound (Dolby Digital), Tullio Morganti. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Moderno Cinema, Rome, March 25, 2004. Running time: 115 MIN.

With: Luca - Fabrizio Bentivoglio Giacomo - Sergio Rubini Silvia - Margherita Buy Lena - Giovanna Mezzogiorno Federica - Mariangela MelatoWith: Sergio Rubini, Antonio Prisco, Alberto Rubini, Giorgia Pranzo, Umberto Orsini, Simona Marchini, Michele Placido.

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