Film director Margherita (Margherita Buy) is distracted by the vagaries of life and impending death. She’s trying to complete a film with a wild American star. Her daughter is growing up fast. And her mother is dying. Refusing to accept the inevitable, she blunders through one crisis to the unavoidable next. Nanni Moretti puts himself into this juggling act between the unreal – the movie – and the reality of Margherita’s fading mama. But it’s Buy who plays him. Thus this is less about a film-within-a-film as a director-within-a-director.
It’s an exercise in vicariousness, with Moretti exploring how his central character cannot deliver one element or cope with the impending other. But it’s also funny, principally courtesy of the scene-stealing John Turturro playing a brittle, egocentric actor whose tantrums and tall tales become the basis of a strange diversion. That crucial balance between hilarity and impending tragedy is what makes this drama so compelling, and so utterly believable. One wonders if all movies play out behind the scenes like mini soap operas.
Mia Madre, Nanni Moretti, out on DVD, Curzon Artificial Eye.
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