A genuinely funny, original Italian comedy with legs strong enough to stride into offshore territories? Helmer Gianni Zanasi proves it can be done with his quirky, believable “Don’t Think About It.” Tale of a 30ish rocker returning to his parents’ home to assess his future sails by with strong laughs thanks to a solid script and exceptional perfs from a cast that could give lessons on ensemble acting. Pic deservedly took home several smaller awards from Venice and may find that even Stateside arthouses will be happy to consider programming it.
Not quite a has-been but not exactly a success, post-punk guitarist Stefano Nardini (Valerio Mastandrea) is in serious need of the warm-blanket feel of his childhood home in Rimini. The family is undeniably happy to see him, but he didn’t anticipate they would also be going through crises of their own.
Brother Alberto (Giuseppe Battiston) is in the midst of a cantankerous separation, sis Michela (Anita Caprioli) has given up her studies to work with dolphins, and mom Giuliana (Gisella Burinato) is taking classes from a kooky guru on how to live a happier life.
Alberto’s problems are the most immediate, and they go beyond his failed marriage: The family factory he runs is seriously in debt, but rather than let dad Walter (Teco Celio) in on the problem, he has chosen to bury his head in the sand. Stefano and Michela band together to help him, but the problems are greater than they thought, and their own lives are pulling them in unexpected directions.
Given the dire state of contempo Italian comedies, it would be easy to praise almost anything that didn’t rely on tit jokes for humor, but Zanasi (“In the Thick of It”) goes much further than mere drollery, displaying a sharp eye and ear for real life. The Nardinis are recognizable as one’s own or a friend’s family, and their flaws and idiosyncrasies are both amusing and familiar.
Even the role of Nadine, a sympathetic prostitute, feels fresher than normal thanks in no small part to the stand-up-and-take-notice performance of Caterina Murino, who quietly holds the screen in every scene she graces.
Star Mastandrea perfectly captures the overgrown child in Stefano, his basset-hound eyes and semi-blank expression registering a mixture of moderate confusion and resigned acceptance. Always a strong actor, he’s rarely been so likeable.
Caprioli also makes a mark as the most level-headed of the family, the kind of girl-next-door you can find yourself suddenly falling for without even thinking.
Stylistically, pic doesn’t always follow through on the build-ups: Zanasi constructs some lovely montage sequences that reach an emotional peak, but he’s not always sure where to go from there. Still, he knows how to end his pic, hitting just the right note of cautious optimism without feeling the need to tie it all up. The influence of American indies and comedies like “Garden State” can be felt even down to the soundtrack, a rocking selection from smaller bands that could generate healthy spinoff revenue.