MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

LAFF 2009 Review: Mid-August Lunch

The delightful little Italian film Mid-August Lunch is exactly the sort of foreign film you might imagine an American studio eyeing for a remake with an amusingly befuddled Albert Brooks in the lead role. The film centers around Gianni, a middle-aged man with no job and seemingly little ambition, who lives with his elderly mother.
Gianni and his mother are in trouble with the fellow residents of their condominium complex over a pile of unpaid dues and shares of upkeep work, so when the building administrator offers to take care of some of their debt in exchange for Gianni caring for the administrator’s elderly mother for a few days while he goes on vacation, Gianni reluctantly agrees to have his endless days of sitting around doing nothing imposed upon. Before Gianni knows what’s happened, his apartment is full of little old ladies and his quiet life of relative leisure turned upside down by the demands of caring for them and mediating their quarrels.

This is a simple, charming film that relies on human emotion and interaction rather than slapstick comedy, and it generates more smiles and chuckles than belly laughs, but Gianni and his elderly charges are funny and human, and the way the film deals with aging, and the respect and care afforded elders by their children is enough to give pause to audiences in America, where we keep our lives so perpetually busy that there’s little room in them for us to do anything with our own aging parents but tuck them away into “retirement” homes. When Gianni’s landlord guilts him into accepting the deal by asking him indignantly, “What would I do, leave my mother by herself while I go on holiday?” it feels very true to that culture in a way that’s almost completely foreign in our own.
The trouble with an American remake is that it would almost certainly put all the focus on broadly comedic moments derived from how put-out Gianni is by caring for his own mother to begin with, much less all these old ladies he finds thrust open him. Where in Mid-August Lunch Gianni handles it all with mildly exasperated humor and bottomless patience, the same film targeted at American audiences would be more inclined to showing the guy with steam coming out his ears while he fumes and rages and plots to throw all these old mammas from the train.
How lovely it would be if more American films would deal with aging mothers, middle-aged children and the burdens and joys of caring for our mothers in their old age as they cared for us in our youth with the grace and charm of Mid-August Lunch.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon