Liam Neeson and real-life son Micheal Richardson play father and son Robert and Jack. Jack wants to sell his parents’ former home in Italy and use his proceeds to buy the London art gallery he’s currently running with his soon-to-be-ex-wife. So Jack and Dad (a famous artist) head to Tuscany to spruce-up the villa, which has been abandoned for close to 20-years, and put in on the market. But things don’t go as smoothly as Jack had planned. If they did, there wouldn’t be a movie.
“Made in Italy” marks the feature film directorial debut of actor James D’Arcy, who’s also the screenwriter. The light tone of the first act leads you to believe you’re watching a family, road buddy film. There are attempts at humor, which don’t work. Robert mixes-up the name of the woman he just slept with and takes part in bad banter with Jack in the car. Punches are Neeson’s on-screen forte, not punchlines.
When the pair arrive at their destination the awkward dialogue continues — with more characters. Robert’s exchanges with realtor Kate (Lindsay Duncan) and Jack’s chance meeting with a possible… I mean probable… I mean definite love interest, Natalia (Valeria Bilello) are predictable and poorly written. And this pattern continues through the movie, as the cardboard stereotypes continue to pop-up, including Natalia’s ex and a snobby American couple looking to buy the house.
This is the rare film in which every scene includes either bad acting, bad direction, bad editing — or a combination of all three. And the script is so superficial and calculated you know exactly what’s going to happen well before anyone in the story.
But there’s an even bigger reason why “Made in Italy” is my most painful movie experience of the year. The core element is a husband and son dealing with the tragic death of their wife/mother. Sadly, this is something Neeson and Richardson know all too well. Their beloved wife/mother, actress Natasha Richardson, died tragically in a skiing accident in 2009. While you’re watching these two men grieve on-screen, it’s impossible to separate the actors from the human beings.
This is a profoundly uncomfortable experience. And it completely over-shadows any entertainment value this movie could have provided. Witnessing two people not acting but more likely re-enacting highly emotional moments from their private life is gut-wrenching.
Had “Made in Italy” been a better film, one in which you lose yourself in the characters and the story, these scenes could have been powerful. Instead, they only reinforce the fact that this movie probably never should have been made at all.
LCJ GRADE: D-
Running Time: 94 min.