Review: Liam Neeson feel-good weepie 'Made In Italy' falls flat
Courtesy of IFC Films
There’s a different vibe to the Liam Neeson starrer “Made In Italy” than you might expect. Casting his real-life son, Micheal Richardson, opposite Neeson, writer/director James D’Arcy is almost facilitating a therapeutic exercise for the two as they play an estranged father and son duo still reeling from the tragic loss of their wife and mother. Richardson is the son of Neeson’s late wife Natasha Richardson who died as a result of a tragic skiing accident circa 2009, and “Made In Italy” uses that in the background, trying to get the audience invested.
Sadly, “Made In Italy” is a wooden experience, a preachy slog filled with one inept cliche after another where chance encounters and jokes about Tinder run rampant. Even the glistening beauty of the Italian countryside can’t save face, and a predictable premise allows little room for discovery and the chemistry between the leads falls painstakingly flat.
Jack (Richardson) is your typical mid-20 something who married too early and is now staring at the end of a grueling divorce. He manages his day by finding solace in his job: being a manager for his soon-to-be ex wife’s art gallery. That is until he’s told the gallery is being thrown up for sale, sending Jack searching for a quick influx of cash to purchase the property and keep his dreams afloat.
So, with his back against the wall, he concocts a plan of reaching out to his distant father, Robert (Neeson), to sell their lavish Tuscan villa that’s been abandoned for two decades. Quickly brushing their own disdain for one another under the bridge, they hit the road for Tuscany. The drive is quaint and cinematographer Mike Eley does his best to capture the elegance and succulent visuals of the Italian countryside, but too often it feels caught in a different lens, feeling one dimensional and not particularly inviting.
They arrive to a home that‘s in shambles, save for an old mural Robert left on the wall years prior. It’s a place filled with memories of the family’s matriarch and the emotional wounds are still fresh. Regardless of all the sentimental value, Jack is determined to flip the home and thus falls prey to a shoddy screenplay that doesn’t know how to account for flexibility. There’s also cheesy metaphors layered throughout about how the dad and son need to amend their broken relationship, which the crimson mural in the living room represents.
Robert, who used to be an acclaimed artist back in the day, suddenly finds new ways to cope and express himself (odd, considering a majority of the first 30 minutes, he’s a stubborn grouch who can’t keep the names of the women he hooks up with straight) and in due time he and Jack get to work on bringing the house up to speed.
Along the way, after Robert makes a crack about Tinder saying: “It leaves no room for chance encounters,” Jack stumbles upon a gorgeous waitress (Valeria Bilello) who, obviously, is dealing with her own issues from a divorce and the two connect instantly.
As of late, Neeson has been trying to shed his action movie persona with adult driven fare in the vein of “Ordinary Love.” Folks seem to forget the star used to be in serious movies with real consequences. I wish “Made In Italy” would be a return to those dramatic roots, but him and Richardson (who would be terrific with the right screenplay) fail to overcome a sappy, melodramatic, story that goes down like cheap wine.
MADE IN ITALY hits VOD Friday August 7th. Check your listings.