A movie review of “Human Capital,” a tale of two families, the Italian rich and its ravenous middle-class aspirants.
A tale of two families and one ruinously divided country, “Human Capital” plunges a large spike into the heart of the Italian rich and its ravenous middle-class aspirants.
Smoothly schematic and ferociously unsentimental, the movie has been separated into several alternating voices, but its overall trajectory mirrors the arc of the sweeping double staircase that fronts the wealthy family’s mansion. Each side of the staircase leads to the same luxurious entrance and all that shimmers beyond, except that not everyone manages the climb with equal success.
From his first shot, a view of workers cleaning a confetti-strewn banquet hall, director Paolo Virzì announces the party is most definitely over. One of those workers, Fabrizio (Gianluca di Lauro), is more narrative cog than realized character. He functions as the ethical hub in a sociopolitical story that fans out into distinct chapters, each told from a different point of view and in service of an overly neat-and-tidy moral.
‘Human Capital,’ with Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Fabrizio Gifuni, Matilde Gioli, Guglielmo Pinelli, Gianluca di Lauro. Directed by Paolo Virzì, from a screenplay by Virzì, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo, based on the novel by Stephen Amidon. 110 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Italian, with English subtitles. SIFF Film Center (moves to the Uptown Monday-Thursday, Feb. 9-12).
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
The drama takes off with Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), a family man and real-estate broker. His eyes expand into saucers when he drops his daughter, Serena (Matilde Gioli), off at the home of her boyfriend, Massimilliano (Guglielmo Pinelli). As father and daughter drive up to that immodest haute-bourgeois pad — the one with the double staircase, plus indoor pool and fleets of cars and servants — Dino cranes his neck in admiration.
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Dino eventually buys into a hedge fund managed by Massimilliano’s father, Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni). It’s immediately established, to us if not to Dino, that Giovanni has absolutely no interest in his middle-class counterpart, outside of his cash investment.
The movie has a third chapter that follows Serena into some melodramatic complications.
It’s all handsomely managed and professional, but the pieces are too neatly manufactured to feel as if anything is truly at stake. The great exception is Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, as Giovanni’s pampered, confused wife, who steals the movie with a frantic and touchingly broken humanity.