DON’T BE BAD (Non Essere Cattivo)
Italian – subtitled
Genre: Drama – Foreign language
Writer/Director: Claudio Caligari
Starring: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Silvia D’Amico|
In Theaters April 7 and on Video On Demand May 23.
Don’t Be Bad was the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It’s clearly a well-made and acted movie that takes us down a path that has been explored so many times before: The unpredictable yet likable small-time crook with an internal battle raging around family, drugs, loyalty, and guilt.
The tortured Cesare (Luca Marinelli) and his “brother for life” Vittorio (Alessandro Borghi) are petty hoodlums and drug dealers. The story is set in the 90’s in a town on the outskirts of Rome. The two clearly have a strong bond of loyalty on display as the film follows their day-to-day life of stealing, selling and using drugs and spending their evenings immersed in the debauchery of discos and night clubs. Cesare is unstable, unpredictable and explosive while Vittoria provides the stability that keeps Cesare from completely spinning out of control.
The character of Cesare is not without his redeeming qualities. He has led a tragic life. His sister died from AIDS and left an adorable daughter that is also suffering from a terminal illness. He lives with her and his mom in a dismal existence. Cesare will lie, steal and do just about anything to get money that mostly goes to pay for the expensive medicines his dying niece requires. This just adds to the conflict the viewers will go through as they try to make judgment on how we feel about Cesare as a person. The actor, Luca Marinelli, does a fine job and manages to convey a larger-than-life character that but avoids using over-the-top mannerisms.
Paired alongside Marinelli’s performance of Cesare, is Borghi’s depiction of Vittorio that truly stands out. He displays the frustration, anger and love that he feels for his friend as he watches him spin further and further into the abyss. Vittorio does everything he can to help his “brother” find work and live a normal life. Then watches with disappointment as he constantly lets everyone down again and again. The pain on his face is palatable as well as his ultimate forgiveness.
Vittorio meets an older woman with a son and they begin a healthy relationship. As a means of getting his life together he distances himself from Cesare and really tries to keep his life going in the right direction. Cesare also “tries” to do the same. But as previously stated, we have seen this story many times and tragedy is always right around the corner.
All of the acting performances are very good and the director has a clear handle on everything presented on the screen, but it’s the story that causes this movie some challenges. There are some continuity issues and jumps in narration that are jarring and a little confusing. The cinematography is straightforward and only deviates into a more artistic direction during the numerous “drug use” sequences. Those contain creative uses of lighting, varying film speeds and innovative camera angles during those moments.
Overall, Don’t Be Bad is a tender, exciting, sad yet ultimately redeeming movie. There was a reason it was Italy’s choice as a Best Foreign Film candidate. It is not life changing, but it is a realistic and sincere look at a person battling so many demons and it’s effects on everyone around him.
3 out of 4 stars.