The charms of Loose Cannons, a family dramedy from Turkish-born Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek, are those of its setting - the Roman architecture, handsomely laden tables, buttery-soft lighting - in the ancient town of Lecce, on Italy's boot heel. As virtual tourism, it's a success but as dramatic fare it's a distinctly thin bowl of zuppa. The story of a gay man coming out to his well-heeled provincial family feels predictable and dated.
As the film begins, handsome, doe-eyed Tommaso Cantone (Riccardo Scamarcio) has just returned from Rome to visit his family, a pasta-making dynasty in his picturesque hometown. Tommaso's boisterously overbearing father, Vincenzo (Ennio Fantastichini), has a plan: He wants to pass the business on to his two sons, Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi), who's been working in the factory for years, and the youngest, Tommaso, who has supposed to have been at business school in Rome. The truth though, as Tommaso reveals to Antonio one afternoon, is that he's been living with his medical-student lover, Marco, while writing a novel.
Tommaso's family exit strategy is simple: He'll announce his homosexuality to his assembled family, then head back to Rome, leaving the business to his brother, but Antonio pulls a fast one. Before Tommaso can deliver his bombshell, Antonio tells the family that he is gay, which promptly causes the father to disown him, before having a minor heart attack.
That leaves Tommaso forced to stay at home and run the business. Everyone in the family overreacts in his or her own way. Mother Stefania works to scare off Vincenzo's mistress and keep the town gossips in line. Vincenzo is paranoid that everyone in town knows the family's embarrassing secret. Kooky Aunt Luciana (Elena Sofia Ricci) hits the bottle, and the saintly, diabetic grandmother (Illaria Occhini) ponders the self-sacrificing decision she made many years ago, while feeding Tommaso such epigrammatic nuggets as "If you always do what others want, life's not worth living," or "Impossible love lives forever."
The film's central section spins around the relationship between Tommaso and the beautiful, rebellious Alba (Nicole Grimaudo), whom he first notices when he sees her keying a car for amusement. While Tommaso's father recovers, the couple work to update the pasta business. They're a cute couple and everyone assumes they'll soon get married and maintain the noodle dynasty. Though there are some tentative romantic sparks, the two soon recognize they're better off as soulmates than bedfellows.
As long as Ozpetek's camera is busy spinning around the family table, monitoring everyone's reactions, or showing characters looking wistfully off in the distance while pop songs play out their entirety on the soundtrack, Loose Cannons is amiably bland. When Ozpetek's script moves into broad farce, it begins leaking goodwill. The subplot about Tommaso's frustrated Aunt Luciana becomes crudely clownish. Then comes the arrival of four of Tommaso's gay friends from Rome - all horny, handsome and given to spontaneously breaking into show tunes, no matter how much they struggle to appear straight in front of Tommaso's family.
As gratingly stereotypical as this sequence is, the theme of repression goes to the heart of Loose Cannons, a movie where everyone is eventually obliged to "come out," revealing their secret passions before dancing in the bright light of truth. The last-minute melodramatics involving Tommaso's super-wise grandmother provide a last course that feels grimly overcooked.
- Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek
- Written by Ivan Cotroneo and Ferzan Ozpetek
- Starring Riccardo Scamarcio and Nicole Grimaudo
- Classification: PG