Milan is a cesspool where power, sex, money and the ills of Italy combine in Francesca Comencini’s flat ensemble piece “Our Country.” A professional cast and tech work help distinguish it from a plethora of recent films featuring multiple characters whose dramas intertwine. This is as easy to watch as a TV series and equally inconclusive, giving viewers a feeling the stories could go on just about forever, and that the best place to view them is from a comfortable sofa at home.
Following her more on-target “I Like to Work (Mobbing)” about workplace harassment, and her delicate Italo Svevo adaptation “My Father’s Words,” this film comes as something of a let-down from the wide-ranging director. The contribution of co-scripter Franco Bernini, who has written better screenplays, is felt mostly in the film’s social undertones and its angry critique of a society that revolves around money and luxury, writes off true feelings, and measures women by their sexual value.
The main story pits corrupt businessman Ugo (Luca Zingaretti), who owns a bank and deals in insider trading on the stock market, against hot Finance Police inspector Rita (Valeria Golino.) Rita’s love life is a mess, but she doesn’t miss a beat at work and she’s determined to bring down the arrogant banker, whom her office is wiretapping. Her key line, proudly hurled at him during their final face-to-face, is emblematic of the pic’s bent for boiling everything down to good versus evil: “You can’t do anything you want; this is our country, too!”
Other stories suffer from being terribly familiar and uninvolving. Otello (Giuseppe Battiston), an ex-con with a heart of gold, tries to take a nice East European hooker off the streets. But she slips into a coma while pregnant, and Ugo tries to purchase her baby for his childless wife. Meanwhile, Ugo cruelly dumps his mistress Elodie (Laura Chiatti), a coked-up model he keeps in a hotel suite.
Throughout these ugly dramas, one feels a painful lack of character development, which keeps even a pro like Golino sliding back and forth between an imaginatively created role (her half-free-spirited wife in “Respiro” is a shining example) and television-ready stereotype. Cast has the kind of glossy glow that should work for the small screen.
Visually, Luca Bigazzi smooths any rough edges with his usual classy lensing.