by Jeff Meyers
It's as if Richard Linklater directed an episode of The Golden Girls in Italian. Simple, plotless and sweet, Mid-August Lunch is really more of a movie morsel than a cinematic meal, too light and insubstantial to offer much nourishment but spiced with just enough taste to be worth a try.
It's the heat of the summer and Gianni (writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio), who lives alone with his 93-year-old mama, is coerced into looking after his building manager's elderly mother in exchange for back fees owed to the condo association. The next day, however, Gianni finds himself saddled with twice the responsibility as the manager also leaves behind his elderly aunt. Soon after the family doctor convinces Gianna to add his elderly Grazia to the geriatric mix — along with her numerous dietary restrictions and must-take medications. Low heat complications simmer but never boil over and eventually the four of them learn to enjoy each other's company. The end. Seriously.
Unlike most Hollywood products — where death, slapstick confrontations or foul-mouthed raunchiness are the norm — Gianni's sleepily paced, somewhat precious slice of life comedy is like mumblecore for the senior set. There are small, nicely observed moments and plenty of endearing homages to the simple pleasures in life but the movie is, thankfully, never sentimental or sticky sweet. Instead, it's an ultra-realistic metaphor for how the aged are all-too easily dismissed as burdens when they still have vitality and personality to burn.
What makes the whole enterprise truly strange is that Mid-August Lunch is created by the very same man who penned last year's hyper-violent Italian mob docudrama Gomorrah. Instead of uncomfortable neorealistic acts of brutality, however, Di Gregorio fills his ode to matronly behavior with gratuitous displays of lip-smacking Italian cooking. If nothing else, you'll come out of the theater hungry for a good meal.
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1, and on 4 p.m. on Sunday May 2. Call 313-833-3237.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.