Like the titular cheese, Dark Star Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment is bringing audiences a little treat from Italy. Mascarpone is a romcom by directors Alessandro Guida (Pupone 2019, Ritoccàti series) and Matteo Pilati (The Italian Jobs 2017, De Cataldo presenta Maigret 2018), who also wrote the screenplay alongside Giuseppe Paternò Raddusa (Dreams, Washed Out 2018, Charlie- Someone’s in There 2019).
The film follows the story of Antonio (Giancarlo Commare: Il Cacciatore 2018, The Beast 2020), a 30 year old man who finds himself adrift when he gets dumped by his husband Lorenzo (Carlo Calderone: Squadra Antimafia- Palermo Oggi 2014, Tuttaposto 2019). He depended on him for nearly everything, both financially and mentally. With nowhere left to go, and nothing left to do, Antonio struggles to find a new home and a job.
Luckily, he gets a room in an apartment owned by a man called Denis (Eduardo Valdarnini: Suburra: Blood on Rome series, The Boat 2022), who finds Antonio a job in a bakery owned by a mutual friend called Luca (Gianmarco Saurino: Che Dio ci aiuti series, DOC- Nelle tue mani series). Through this, pastry school, and his love of baking, Antonio slowly regains his sense of independence. But will it stick?
The Italian film by an Italian crew with Italian actors is, of course, in Italian, with English subtitles for those who only had French, German or nothing back in school. It will have a limited cinema run in L.A on May 6, 2022, before arriving on DVD and VOD on May 10th. It did well at film festivals, earning prizes at OUTshine and Reeling Chicago. Now it has to please everyone else. Particularly as there are not many gay Romcoms around. Always the bride’s best friend, never the spouse, so to speak.
Technically, it is solid. The editing is smooth, with each shot flowing into the next neatly. While the film does not really have city-wide panning shots- it is about people, not buildings- it makes Rome look beautiful. Usually, films set in Italy and the Mediterranean go all out with the color saturation, but this one makes it look cool with an emphasis on whites and blues. The bakery looks warm enough, though even then it is with some cozy, homey beiges like the inside of an oven.
Anyone looking for fire would find it in the characters. The actors’ performances shine through even beyond the language barrier. Commare’s Antonio is a sensitive soul who does not realize how co-dependent he is until he is cast aside, working well at garnering the audience’s sympathy, while wanting him to get a grip. Denis sums it up well in that he needs to “grow up and set some goals”. Antonio can be petulant, though not irritatingly so. He makes for a very relatable character, and Commare does a grand job bringing him to life.
The supporting cast is equally colorful, with Valdarnini’s Denis being a standout. He serves more as a contrast to Antonio in someone who is more confident in who he is and how he expresses it. Hence why he offers the film’s more R-rated moments, be it eye candy or artfully maneuvered sexual scenes. He is also particularly proactive in helping Antonio out with advice and actions, as he sees and knows more than Antonio is willing to admit.
That brings the rom, how about the com? Denis is rich with quips, and the way Antonio bounces off of his best friend Cristina (Michela Giraud: I babysitter 2016, Paese reale 2020), her hapless boyfriend Paolo (Alberto Paradossi: The Girl in the Fog 2017, Supereroi 2021), and his casual hookups are quite funny. Notably in the way the former two throw their love around as Antonio seethes, or how his post-breakup dates often give him more than he bargained for.
Still, the film is not necessarily anything romcom fans have not seen before. The film is more casual in its sexual expression and nudity (“22 is not my age, it’s my centimetres”) than nearly anything out of Hollywood. It also focuses more on the coming-of-age aspect than finding love- Antonio learning to find himself than another man. Though it can leave one wondering why the film has him go with hookup after hookup than linking with Denis or Luca.
The latter in particular feels a little undercooked for most of the film’s runtime, with him being a sidepiece until the third act. Even then, it feels like payoff for a buildup that was not really there. Despite being on the poster, and a solid performance from Saurino, Luca does not seem any stronger a romantic option as Antonio’s other hookups.
Overall, Mascarpone has lovely visuals and good acting. The characters are appealing as they are relatable, and the dramatic elements are especially touching. The first half of the film is especially well-constructed narratively. However, it dropped the ball with some characters, notably Luca, and the third act also has some twists that come out of nowhere and feel tacked on as a result. Still, the film has enough charm to keep viewers hooked through to the end. It is just that, what looked like a sure-fire goal, ended up shooting off wide from the net. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Mascarpone 3.5 out of 5 stars.