Reviewed by GREG KING

DIrector: Gabriele Muccino

Stars: Steffano Accorsi, Vittoria Puccini, Sara Girolami, Francesca Valtorta, Adriano Giannini, Pierfrancesco Favino, Daniela Piazza, Giorgio Pasotti, Andrea Calligari, Sabrina Impaccaitor, Marco Cocci, Claudio Santamaria, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

This belated sequel to The Last Kiss sees writer/director Gabriele Muccino revisit the characters from that film ten years later as they approach forty and deal with some mid-life crises. The first film was a huge success in Italy both critically and commercially, but this sequel fails to reach the same heights. In the interim between the two films Muccino enjoyed a brief, but successful, sojourn in Hollywood where he helmed the overly saccharine Will Smith vehicles The Pursuit Of Happyness and Seven Pounds. He tends to bring the same sugary excess to this film, which is also overly long and sprawling.

Overly stressed businessman Carlos (Steffano Accorsi) has separated from his wife Guilia (Vittoria Puccini, stepping into the role previously played by Giovanna Mezzogornio), although they share joint custody of their daughter Sveva (Sara Girolami). Carlo is living with his younger girlfriend Anna (Francesca Valtorta), but they are also drifting apart as it is obvious he is still madly, deeply in love with Guilia. Guilia meanwhile is involved in a relationship with Simon (Adriano Giannini), an out of work actor. Meanwhile his other close friends are also experiencing relationship problems. Marco (Pierfrancesco Favino) is suspicious that his wife Veronica (Daniela Piazza) is unfaithful.

The catalyst for much of this male navel gazing is the arrival of Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) who has returned to Italy after a ten-year absence, that includes a two-year stint in a Colombian jail for trying to smuggle drugs into the country. He tries to build a relationship with Matteo (Andrea Calligari), the son he has never known, over the objections of his ex-wife Livia (Sabrina Impacciator).

Alberto (Marco Cocci) is still happily single but he is quickly developing a desire to again head off and travel the world. Meanwhile, the depressed, schizophrenic Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) is wrestling with his own demons, which ultimately leads to tragedy.

Muccino’s characters have to deal with the consequences of their own decisions and past mistakes. It’s all a bit like Sex And The City for males, except that the material is overly melodramatic and soap opera like in its machinations and plot development. Muccino’s busy script deals with some universal ideas, and he certainly crams in a lot of incident, but much of it is misjudged in tone and doesn’t ring true.

As the film moves between the various characters and story arcs the audience struggles to reconnect with them. The characters we first met as more carefree a decade ago are now approaching middle age as they deal with parenthood and the curveballs that life sometimes throws up. Also their relationships are crumbling. The film offers some insights into the nature of Italian masculinity, unhappiness, responsibility, the delicate nature of relationships, infidelity and human weakness. As such the material has a darker tone than the original, which was lot faster, funnier and fresher.

Most of it will be lost on audiences unfamiliar with the 2001 original. And the unnecessarily lengthy and overly indulgent running time will also test the patience of many in the audience. However, the production values are good. Paolo Buonvino’s score is lush and underscores the emotional impact of the drama and adds a bittersweet note to proceedings, and Muccino’s use of pop songs is also effective.

The performances of the ensemble cast tend to be a bit shrill and histrionic, and full of typically Italian mannerisms and voluble dialogue. The characters this time around a re largely unsympathetic, which also makes it hard for audiences to care about their romantic entanglements. The standout performances come from Favino and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who makes the most of her small role.

But somehow we emerge from the cinema feeling disappointed. This return to the characters of The Last Kiss was largely unnecessary.




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