Having an adult mentor or teacher when we are young is sometimes all that is needed to guide us to adulthood.
The new Netflix film, The Life Ahead (based on the book entitled The Life Before Us by Ugo Chiti and Romain Gary) premiered this weekend. In a small seaside town in Italy, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren) is a Holocaust survivor and a retired prostitute. She earns her bread by taking care of the children of those who ply the same trade that she used to.
She meets Momo (Ibrahima Gueye), a young orphan boy who was born in Senegal. In the country illegally, he steals a pair of candlesticks from her in a market. When he is forced to apologize and return the stolen goods, Rosa reluctantly agrees to take him in. What starts as a forced relationship turns into mother/son bond that both Rosa and Momo learn to treasure.
Directed by Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti, this film is easily one of the best of 2020. Returning to the screen after a decade, Loren is nothing short of breath taking as Rosa. Her acting is superb and her character’s arc is perfection. Gueye is a young actor who based on this film alone, has the acting chops to hopefully have a long career ahead of him. What kept me watching was the slow reveal of what was beneath the emotional hard shell of the main characters.
I absolutely recommend it.
The Life Ahead is available for streaming on Netflix.
Parenthood, especially single parenthood is never easy.
In the 1958 movie, Houseboat, Tom (Cary Grant) is a single father doing his best to raise his children after the death of his wife. Cinzia (Sophia Loren) has left the comfortable life and her overprotective father for a life of freedom and independence. She agrees to work for Tom, but as expected, things go, well not as expected.
The narrative is almost like The Sound Of Music, but downgraded. Despite the notable names of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, the film is merely ok. The only thing that stands out in regards to Houseboat is the off-screen drama. Cary Grant was married at the time to Betsy Drake (who wrote the original screenplay and hoped to star opposite her husband). Infatuated with his co-star and having an affair with her, Grant had the screenplay altered, taking the screenwriting credit away from his wife and cast Loren instead of Drake in hopes of continuing the affair. While there was a happy ending on-screen, the ending off-screen was different. Loren returned to Italy and to the man who would become her husband, Carlo Ponti.
There is something about a long time friendship. After decades of being around each other, there is a short hand that exists between the two friends. Nothing can tear them apart….until someone new and attractive moves into the neighborhood.
In Grumpy Old Men (1993), John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau) have been frienemies since boyhood. Their relationship alters when a new female neighbor, Ariel Truax (Ann-Margaret) moves to town.
This movie is incredibly funny. The decades long relationship and chemistry that Lemmon and Matthau have is tangible on screen. Revisiting her screen idol goddess past, Ann-Margaret is funny, charming and age appropriate for her two leading men.
Two years later in 1995, Grumpier Old Men revisited John and Max. John and Ariel are married. The town bait shop has been closed. A new owner, Maria Ragetti (Sophia Loren) buys the bait shop and plans to turn into an Italian restaurant. But John and Max will do anything to keep the bait shop as is. While John is happy to play along with Max’s plan, Max finds that he is attracted to Maria.
The addition of Sophia Loren to this cast is the icing on the cake. The antagonistic love/hate relationship between Loren and Matthau is incredibly funny.