STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 120 Minutes

The Pitch

Wouldn’t The Prince of Tides suck less if we replaced Nolte and Streisand’s ugly mugs with sexy Italians? No?

The Humans

Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Facing Windows), Alessio Boni (The Best of Youth), Stefania Rocca (Heaven), Angela Finocchiaro (Don’t Move), Luigi Lo Cascio (The Best of Youth)

In Italy orange juice is for sissies.

The Nutshell

Sabina (Mezzogiorno) hopes to have a baby with boyfriend and fellow actor Franco (Boni), but troubling dreams of childhood abuse begin to well up and make her uneasy about the relationship. Meanwhile longtime blind friend Emilia (Rocca) competes for her time as she has her own barely disguised romantic designs on Sabina. As the fuzzy, haunting memories begin to overwhelm her, Sabina seeks solace and answers in a visit to her emotionally repressed brother Daniele (Lo Cascio) in Virginia. While she tries to reconnect with him, her jilted middle-aged boss Maria (Finocchiaro) becomes a friend and maybe more to the lonely Emilia, and Franco is tempted by a willing young costar. Sabina finds that the more her past comes into focus, the hazier her future becomes.

Sometimes you just want to tell the handicapped where they can stick that tired martyr act. It’s best to avoid crowds though.

The Lowdown

I have to confess my exposure to Italian cinema has thus far been minimal. I don’t think I’ve seen anything since Life is Beautiful, and probably never any films with a contemporary setting. So I was intrigued to see what the Academy Award nominated Don’t Tell had to say about love and family in modern Italy.

Alas, nothing more illuminating than the average Oprah book of the month as it turns out. Like a half-baked TV melodrama, the film awkwardly stumbles from one improbable character dilemma to the next while never really hitting the intended emotional beats. The issue of overcoming childhood abuse is an interesting one, but it isn’t examined in any great depth here, and the rather unrewarding moral seems to be simply "grin and bear it." The mystery of Sabina’s past isn’t very involving, and its resolution largely unconvincing. The climax shoehorns in a ridiculous "pregnant woman on the run" chase scene before an oddly upbeat ending.

Logan would have gotten a new Norelco long ago if he’d known it was the way to Rogue’s pants.

Once Sabina’s past is uncovered the film loses any narrative drive and gets bogged down in extraneous subplots. Emilia serves merely to trigger one of Sabina’s memories and then provide some gratuitous lesbian tension. It’s quite convenient that Maria not only suddenly decides she has homosexual feelings but also happens to take an instant liking to the desperate and irritable Emilia.

The cast is solid, but done no favors by the Hallmark card material. Mezzogiorno’s ethereal beauty makes close friends with the camera, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her turn up in as a love interest in some small Hollywood roles. Speaking of which, I was frequently distracted from Boni’s generally unremarkable performance by his uncanny resemblance to Hugh Jackman. He might be called on to spike his hair and starts chomping cigars if Jackman decides to jump off the X-Men money train. Boni does get Don’t Tell‘s sole laugh when shooting a scene for the banal TV medical drama he stars in. Tearfully bemoaning a failed operation, Franco wonders if he’ll ever be able to face his children again, all the while furiously pumping the naked and impressively well endowed chest of his sultry female patient.

It wasn’t so much the restraining order that got him down, as her ability to run like the wind.

All in all Don’t Tell is little more than a mature after school special. Maybe if there were a cameo from the incomparable Scott Baio I could understand the Oscar nomination.

The Package

The simple but attractive cover art suggests a much steamier film than is actually delivered. In fact the erotic scenes are so brief it’s almost like watching a cable edit. At least the film is classy enough not to really show us the child abuse either. I guess even the country that elected a porn star to parliament still has a few taboos.

If guys were girls the mammogram van would be out of business.

There are no extras included, and the menu screen is rather cheap looking. That’s pretty shoddy treatment for an Oscar nominee, but then it’s a pretty shoddy film.

5 out of 10