"Italian for Beginners"
Directed by Lone Scherfig.
Written by Lone Scherfig.
Starring Anders Berthelsen.
Release Year: 2000
Review Date: 4/11/02
There is a moment in "Italian for Beginners"
that is really priceless: an impotent former soccer
player-turned-concierge named Jorgen proposes to a love interest
named Giulia, but because she speaks mostly Italian, Jorgen
professes his passion to her in some Norwegian dialect, and hopes
that she will understand. She picks up the basics and considers his
proposal briefly before saying yes, and the way that she walks out
of Jorgen's sight to consider it is both cute and amusing before she
walks back to him and accepts.
It is moments like these that I find rare in
movies these days--usually, it's Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock playing
a role like Giulia and making it look over-the-top cute instead of
just human. The way this scene is played out in "Italian for
Beginners" is beautiful...however, most of this film is not nearly
This is mostly because the ensemble cast
that makes up "Italian for Beginners" seems to be working in totally
separate films, not flowing through a continuous sequence that
happens to have their individual storylines intertwine over the
course of the film. As such, we are treated with two very
depressing, monosyllabic paths--two women that suffer through the
deaths of a parent--and many more paths that detail lives that seem
to be heading nowhere, which include Jorgen and his best friend
Finn, a profane restaurant manager that ends up teaching an Italian
class for the characters in the film after their first teacher dies
of a heart attack.
Adding to the misery is the fact that the
film has no score, token laughs and having to watch a character
named Olympia stumble through every scene she is in because she is
horrifically error-prone. "Italian for Beginners" held my attention
throughout, and it didn't feel too long every though it runs nearly
two hours...but, I just felt like it was average. Nothing about it
is earth-shattering, or even something you haven't seen recently.
When it is dramatic, it is as good as most average TV dramas, with
more profanity. During those few funny scenes, you won't get caught
guffawing so loud that you will embarrass your friends.
You could do worse, but do yourself a favor
and do better.
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard