The Family Friend

on February 17, 2007 by Richard Mowe
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Neapolitan filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino confirms in his third feature the original promise he displayed in "The Consequences of Love" two years ago. He wrote the lead role for the veteran stage actor Giacomo Rizzo, who plays Geremia de Geremei, a 60-year-old loan shark, as an unattractive, dirty, rich, stingy, cynical and ironic sleazebag. His character has a morbid, obsessive relationship with money and insinuates himself in to people's affairs by pretending to be their friend. Everything in life (including, one suspects, life itself) makes him grumpy -- his mother, his father, and women. Even money doesn't make him happy. The only tentative exception is his friend and business partner (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), a country music fanatic. Of course, if any of his "friends" fall behind in repayments, he is on to them like a ton of bricks.

He is so thoroughly without scruples that his relationship with his 86-year-old mother is incestuous and he has a penchant for molesting young girls. He has the impression of being utterly alone, but nevertheless isn't because there are plenty of other people like him or who are willing to tolerate him. In Sorrentino's eyes, the world is not simply divided into good or bad.

Rizzo manages to make Geremei repugnant and yet does not alienate the viewer, although parts may prove too morally dubious for some tastes. Sorrentino certainly boasts a singular voice and in his grotesque absurdities recalls a young Fellini at work -- which can't be bad. Starring Giacomo Rizzi, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Laura Chiatti, Gigi Angelillo and Clara Bindi. Directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino. Produced by Domenico Procacci, Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima. No distributor set. Drama/Satire. Not yet rated. Running time: 110 min

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