And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Review: The Hand of God

Hand of God 201x300 - Review: The Hand of GodThis coming of age drama from Academy Award-winning writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) tells the story of Fabietto (Filippo Scotti). Set in Naples in the 1980s, it’s clearly a nostalgic look back for the director to a time that was filled with adolescent awakening, family joys and tragedies, and the beginnings of his love affair with cinema. It’s bursting with big characters seen through a many-years-removed lens. Told in a series of vignettes,  it’s by turns hilarious and warm and sad and violent, and serves as a love letter to the Naples of a certain time.

Fabietto lives with his prankster mother (Teresa Saponangelo) and Communist banker father (Toni Servillo, The Great Beauty), his older brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert) with whom he shares a room, and a sister who never comes out the bathroom. He’s a solitary young man, with a huge crush on his very sexy, frequently nude, and slightly insane Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri ). His whole extended family is right out of central casting for a film from Fellini (who has a brief part in the plot.)  And Fabietto is searching for some meaning his in life. The one bright bulb for him is that the Naples football club has just bought Diego Maradona, the greatest player ever and the whole city is in his thrall.

His family goes through a series of ups and downs. His parents are frequently lovey-dovey.  His father is a warm family man, but also it turns out, a philanderer. And his brother is trying unsuccessfully to make it as an actor. Fabietto spends most of the film with Walkman headphones at his neck, whether for listening to music or as a buffer to the chaotic world around him. His one friend in the film is a cigarette smuggler he befriends after watching him evade a police chase in the Bay of Naples. And he loses his virginity to the most unexpected character in the film.

But for all the quirks and great characters and funny scenes, the story threads never really come together. Sure, it’s fun to watch, but it’s no Amarcord or Roma, both of which served the same purpose for their directors, but with more fully realized scripts. Filippo Scotti does a great job as the central character, and the cinematography, particularly of the water around Naples, gives you a beautiful sense of place. But sadly the film is just too uneven to land on my must see list. Fortunately, it will be coming to Netflix where you can take the plunge without considering the ticket price.

In Select Theaters December 3 and on Netflix December 15, 2021.

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