POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 07, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 01:46 a.m. HST, Jun 07, 2013
The first sign of trouble in the romantic comedy "Love Is All You Need" is the cliched and incessant use of "That's Amore." Ever since that early-'50s Dean Martin hit was used in "Moonstruck" in 1987, the song has been pop culture's Pavlovian signal to wallow in the jollier side of all things Italian. Much of this movie, about a wedding that goes awry, is set in Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples. As the story progresses, though, the tune's insistent levity is contradicted by the awful behavior of some pigheaded characters.
|‘LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED’
Opens today at Kahala 8
For Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier ("Brothers," "Things We Lost in the Fire," "In a Better World"), "Love Is All You Need" is a conspicuously strained detour into froth and fun. The southern Italian scenery is picture-perfect: The camera lingers on sunsets, full moons and misty coves, and you can almost smell the fragrance from a citrus grove outside the palatial home where the wedding is to take place.
But something is rotten in Denmark, where the movie begins. Despite the gorgeous sights and rollicking sounds of sunny Italy, a Scandinavian heaviness hangs over the film, with a screenplay by Bier's frequent collaborator, Anders Thomas Jensen, based on a story they developed. Occasionally it feels as if the buoyancy signaled by "That's Amore" and the luscious cinematography were applied like whitewash to disguise a dour family drama.
In the opening scene, Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a middle-aged hairdresser being treated for breast cancer, arrives home from a hospital appointment to find her husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia), having sex with his pretty, blond accountant. Far from cowering in guilt and begging forgiveness, this insensitive, self-pitying lout excuses his behavior by whining that Ida's illness hasn't been easy for him either.
Ida and Leif's daughter, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), is about to marry Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), whom she has known for only three months. The wedding is planned for the Italian estate of Patrick's father, Philip (Pierce Brosnan), a wealthy British importer of fruits and vegetables who is still grieving over the death of his wife years earlier in a senseless accident. Patrick resents his father for his emotional absence, and his relationship with Astrid is already disintegrating from his own lack of passion.
At an airport on the way to the wedding, Philip and Ida meet-cute in an underground parking garage where she accidentally rams into his vehicle. They realize in the middle of the incident that they are heading to the same event. By the time they arrive their relations are cordial, and things get warmer from there.
Most of the movie's light emanates from the appealing performance of Dyrholm, whose Ida faces down all manner of humiliations and setbacks with a good-humored optimism that eventually helps thaw Philip's heart. Even when Leif arrives in Sorrento with his girlfriend in tow, Ida shrugs off her outrage.
The movie's funniest and meanest character is Benedikte (Paprika Steen), the rude, self-deluded sister of Philip's dead wife, who brings along her hostile, bulimic daughter. Played with amusingly grotesque hauteur by Steen, Benedikte, who fantasizes that she and Philip have always been in love, provides the movie's heartiest laughs.
As "Love Is All You Need" ties up its loose ends, it settles into a rom-com formula with a predictable, upbeat ending. It feels good, sort of.
Review by Stephen Holden, New York Times