The general rule of thumb is that the best Italian films looking to premier each year go to either Berlin or Cannes, because in Venice any Italian effort in competition is viewed with suspicion. In the case of Roan Johnson’s by-the-numbers pregnancy comedy Piuma, the suspicion is amply justified. This is as light as the feather of the title and although sporadically funny, it has no place in the main competition line up as it struggles to attain the philosophical heights of Bridget Jones’ Baby or Nine Months.
Roman high school students Ferro (Luigi Fedele) and Cate (Blu Yoshimi) find themselves in a dilemma when they discover that the latter is pregnant. Determined to keep the baby, despite the reservations of everyone involved including themselves to some extent, the film traces their lives through the framework of the nine months with most of the comedy coming from their families: the grandfather Lino who has comedy heart attacks, Ferro’s dad and his furious temper as well as Cate’s slacker papa and his scatterbrained schemes. People shout and scream like the very worst Italian stereotypes until you want to respond, with sincerest apologies to Joe Dolce, “Shaddap You Face”.
The participating Italian cast all give creditable performances, although it is notable that the female characters have much less to do, essentially being the long-suffering foils of the excitable menfolk. Financed in part by Sky Italia, Johnson’s Piuma should ring up a solid box office domestically and find its true home on television, which largely informs its aesthetic anyway. It doesn’t really need the festival per se and the Venice competition lineup certainly doesn’t need such lightweight local far.
The Venice Film Festival takes place from 31 August-10 September. For our coverage follow this link.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty