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"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 as entertaining.

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.

Rating:  Matinee


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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 "Office Space"). 

"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, 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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09