‘Enea’ Review: Pietro Castellitto’s Emptily Swaggering Youth Study



About 20 minutes pass in “Enea” before someone asks the young, handsome, splendidly attired title character what he does for a living, during which time audiences are likely to be wondering the same thing. This, to be fair, is not a negligent omission in writer-director-star Pietro Castellitto’s script, which tells us early on that Enea, the elder son of a wealthy Roman family, ostensibly manages a high-end sushi restaurant, atop an assortment of more underhand dealings. What he actually does, however, is a question less easily answered in this slickly mounted but stultifying portrait of privilege and ennui among Italy’s silver-spoon set, which feels more empathy for its pampered, spiraling protagonist than most viewers are likely to muster.

Three years ago, Castellitto premiered his directorial debut “The Predators” in Venice’s Horizons sidebar, winning the section’s screenplay prize. A dark comedy examining social disparity in the Italian capital, it was brash and often overstated, but had a certain cocky impact — auspicious enough to see his sophomore effort promoted to the festival’s main competition. Awash in set pieces luxuriating in pricey One Percent hedonism, “Enea” builds on its predecessor in scale alone; otherwise, it’s short on ideas and wit, hammering home its points about the putrefying effects of hereditary wealth to steadily diminishing returns over a lengthy-feeling two hours. At home, there may be some admiration for Castellitto’s derivative but sleek formal pizzazz — plainly indebted to Paolo Sorrentino at his most ostentatious — but it’s hard to see international distributors flocking.

As the son of veteran actor-filmmaker Sergio Castellitto — drafted in here to play Enea’s wearily aloof dad Celeste — the younger Castellitto knows a little something about inherited status, though if there’s a personal dimension to “Enea,” it’s not intimately felt in the filmmaking. We first encounter Enea, tetchy and disengaged, in conversation with his TV-presenter mother Marina (Chiara Noschese) and best friend Valentino (Giorgio Quarzo Guarascio) at dinner as they discuss the strains of family, remarriage and the fog of the future; when Ena raises his glass and proposes a toast “to the clan,” it sounds less than sincere.

Later, Enea’s family frets selfishly over the sudden departure of their maid (“Can she do that?” “No, but she did”) lest we miss the point that their feet only intermittently touch the ground. Valentino’s hobby, aptly enough, is flying planes, which, in addition to its symbolic loftiness, also justifies some swooping, digitally enhanced aerial photography of the Eternal City and its surrounds. He’s also gay, lonely, and seemingly besotted with his lifelong pal, who’s mostly too obtuse, and too distracted by shiny things, to intuit any feelings not his own. “Enea” leads with its eponymous point of view; Valentino is mostly sidelined. Ditto the protagonist’s trophy girlfriend Eva (the promising Benedetta Porcaroli, a lively oddball in last year’s “Amanda,” here confined to exasperated love-interest mode) and his teenage brother Brenno (Cesare Castellitto, keeping it in the family), beset with issues and insecurities of his own.

Indeed, any number of people in Enea’s immediate orbit read, at least from a gauzy distance, as more interesting than Enea himself, whose offhand path through life eventually has a palling effect on the film’s own febrile, circling rhythm. Castellito juices things up with some vivid image-making, not least in the film’s copious, coked-up party sequences, which aim for a kind of Eurotrash-Gatsby pull even as they repel us: As gifted DP Radek Ladczuk (best known for his work on Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” and “The Nightingale”) drives his camera kinetically through crowds, strobe lights, excessively feathered decor and curtains of sulphur-yellow smoke, they more or less succeed.

But then there’s another, and another, and “Enea” can’t float by on this gross dazzle for long. Enea and Valentino’s progression from casual drug-dealing to deeper underworld entanglement promises a new narrative gear, but Castellitto keeps the details in this regard pointedly vague, so proceedings never take shape as a crime drama either. The director himself has described the film as a “genre story without a genre,” and as such “Ena” effectively mirrors its protagonist’s equal detachment from all facets and possibilities of his fabulously floundering life.

In theory, this makes sense. Dramatically, however, it’s a dead end, unaided by sporadic, leaden stabs at farce and whimsy. One running gag about a salmon-shagging sushi chef is particularly limp, not to mention racially dubious. A strain of bad taste here feels intentional but unconfident, culminating in a climactically misguided use of Valentino’s aviation skills. Eventually, even the pleasures of Ladczuk’s splashy lensing, Massimiliano Nocente’s marbled, mirrored production design and Andrea Cavalletto’s exquisite louche-luxe threads begin to tire and aggravate — a faltering takedown of stagnant wealth can’t be redeemed by the gorgeous trappings of that very theme, however lavishly “Enea” tries.


Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.