Thursday, August 6, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 8/7/20 -- 'Made in Italy' and 'The Secret: Dare to Dream'

Made in Italy
        The last thing I want from a film is to have my heart warmed. 
     So, I was put off by the generic description I read of
Made in Italy, a movie starring Liam Neeson and his son, Micheal Richardson. But then I thought, "Hey, give it a chance. Neeson never has been an actor whose work is driven by sentiment.”
     In Made in Italy, Neeson delivers a respectable performance but even he can’t save the film from becoming a predictable exercise in "feel-goodism" -- supposedly tempered by the emotional undertow of a man who lost his wife in an automobile accident and a grown son who’s estranged from his father.
       Director James D’Arcy, who also wrote the screenplay, makes his feature debut with a story that’s smart enough to leave London, where Richardson's Jake runs an art gallery and where Neeson’s Robert has been stewing for a couple of decades. Destination: Tuscany. 
        As it turns out, Robert owns a run-down house in the Tuscan hills. Jack wants to sell the house so that he can buy the gallery he loves from his estranged wife. Her family wants to sell it out from under her soon-to-be ex-husband.
        Once in Italy, the movie turns into a variant of Under the Tuscan Sun, a story of a renovation that’s fated to bring about a father-and-son reconciliation and which proceeds with considerably less difficulty than Diane Lane faced in the 2003 version of Frances Mayes' bestselling book,  more engaging than either movie.
         While in Tuscany, Robert must rediscover the talent he’s abandoned, although the artwork shown in the movie suggests he might have done well to stay away from an easel. 
          You don’t need to have seen many movies to know that Jack eventually will fall under Tuscany’s charms.
          Valeria Biello appears so that she can put an exclamation point on Jack’s transformation. She portrays Natalia, a beautiful woman who runs the restaurant in the small town near Robert’s property. A local realtor (Lindsay Duncan) helps look for buyers.
          D’Arcy tries to put weight into the proceedings in a scene in which Robert and Jack finally have the confrontation we've know is coming all along.
          Tuscan scenery can cover many sins when it comes to movies, but Made in Italy didn’t warm my heart. A couple of times, it made it sink, though.

The Secret: Dare to Dream
When it comes to movies that want to make you feel better about the world, The Secret: Dare to Dream makes Made in Italy look like something Eugene O’Neill might have written.
          Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas star in a movie based on a self-help book, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. Holmes plays a single mom who’s struggling to make ends meet. Lucas shows up as the kind of super dude who in most movies would turn out to be a serial killer.
          But in The Secret, Lucas’ Bray really is a nice guy and Holmes’ Miranda is more than ready to break down her emotional resistance after being widowed. 
        Predictable and seldom credible, you’d expect to be able to watch a movie such as The Secret without working up too much animosity, but director Andy Tenant (Sweet Home Alabama) lets the movie dribble on for a patience-taxing 107 minutes, sticking so close to the surface you wonder whether someone should have suggested looking up the word “subtext.”
      The inevitable romance between Bray and Miranda is punctuated by Bray’s tendency to offer bromides that amount to various restatements of one idea: even terrible things are fraught with opportunity. He talks about the law of attraction, meaning that we attract the world we live in with our thoughts: Think positive and the outcome will be positive.
    Set around New Orleans, The Secret centers on Bray’s attempts to help Katie recover when a storm sends a tree through the roof of her home. 
     Miranda has three children (Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, and Chloe Lee) and a mother-in-law (Celia Weston) with whom she seems to get along.
     Aside from the fact that the tree that falls into the house looks real, nothing about The Secret can overcome the fact that the movie aims to spark a romance that’s as tepid as nearly everything else that precedes it.


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