Rednecks are the big bad wolves of “The Homeowners,” a good-looking but overweight mongrel that wears its Altmanesque aspirations with more show than nature warrants. In his sophomore outing, Edoardo Gabbriellini presents a couple of not-so-bright Roman brothers in the Tuscan outback who fail to recognize the tensions around them. Personal demons of various descriptions prowl about, and by the messy finale, auds learn once again that the rich are different, and provincials are provincial. Strong leads play with conviction, yet their intriguing characters are only half-developed. Mild local and Euro play is all that can be expected.
Cosimo (Valerio Mastandrea) and younger bro Elia (Elio Germano) are hired by middle-aged crooner sensation Fausto Mieli (legendary singer Gianni Morandi) to lay a new deck outside his large home. On the way, the siblings notice a dead wolf in a local’s pickup truck, and mention it to Fausto, who reports this violation of nature reserve laws to the mayor.
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Fausto’s wife, Moira (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), is wheelchair-bound, apparently suffering from a combination of epilepsy and severe Lyme disease (the actual diagnosis isn’t revealed). Angry, mute and uncooperative, she remains a cipher; Bruni Tedeschi’s withering glare should be directed at the scripters for this semi-written role bordering on parody.
While Elia goes about his work and shyly flirts with local vixen Adriana (Francesca Rabbi), his more gullible older brother imagines he’s bonding with Fausto. Unsurprisingly, these hired laborers barely register on the radar of the famous star, who’s about to give a much-anticipated comeback concert in the area. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting between the two Romans and the tight-knit locals, especially young Davide (Lorenzo Rivola), Adriana’s ex, who happens to be the guy who shot the wolf at the beginning.
The script builds characters haphazardly, aiming for a subtlety that’s hindered by its heavyhanded, formulaic conception of these close-minded inhabitants. It appears Gabbriellini (“B.B. and the Cormorant”) is aiming for an Altman vibe, using unexplained behavior rather than expository background to create personality, but there’s a sense of incompleteness instead, and a montage accompanied by the theme song to “MASH” is particularly misguided.
Germano, always at his best when playing nonvolatile roles, is particularly good as the shy, more responsible brother. Morandi’s reappearance on the bigscreen after 40 years is sure to generate plenty of local news, and the singer seems perfectly at home, additionally performing two new songs that play to his strengths.
Lensing is well modulated, with the countryside seen alternately as a glorious, pristine haven and a dangerous, insular lair. Fausto’s cold modern home, cut off from its surroundings, furthers the sense of isolation that’s very much a part of his and Moira’s characters. Incidental music, featuring oddly rich orchestrations harking back to the 1950s, can feel equally out of place. The presskit gives the English-lingo title as “The Landlords.”