Italian For Beginners

2000, Movie, R, 112 mins

Review

ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS | ITALIENSK FOR BEGYNDERE
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Packaged for U.S. release as the sort of light-hearted, romantic comedy distributor Miramax favors, this film's inexplicably high body count, overabundance of hideously unlikable supporting characters and euthanasia subplot (which seems to have come from another, deeply depressing, movie) will come as a shock to unprepared viewers. If this is the Danish idea of a good time, prospective tourists might want to consider a different destination — some jolly country embroiled in a bloody civil war, perhaps. The plot, which isn't all that dissimilar in structure from such Hollywood golden oldies as GRAND HOTEL, revolves around six thirtysomethings whose lives and problems intersect at the titular language class. Recently widowed minister Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) has been sent to Copenhagen on what he thinks will be a temporary assignment. Mousy-but-sweet shop-girl Olympia (Anette Støvelbæk) falls in love with him, but has her hands full caring for her abusive father. Jorgen Mortensen (Peter Gantlzer), who manages the hotel where Andreas is staying, has a mad crush (requited, as it turns out) on Italian cook Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen), but has convinced himself he's impotent. Jorgen's best friend, restaurant-manager Halvfinn (Lars Kaalund), is in danger of being fired from the hotel's restaurant because of his unfortunate habit of screaming at the customers. Between hissy fits, he's having a passionate affair with beautiful hairdresser Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), who's also ministering to her terminally ill mother. None of this is any more fun as it sounds — the cancer ward scenes are truly disturbing — but to be fair, writer/director Lone Scherfeg (the first woman to make a Dogme 95 film) manages some black-humored laughs. The actors (although unflatteringly lit and photographed, in typical Dogme style) are generally more appealing than the characters they're playing. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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