Il Divo Review


One of the biggest surprises the day the Oscar nominations were announced was the inclusion of the Italian film “Il Divo” in the Best Makeup category. Most people don’t really care about Best Makeup, but tradition tells me I must see every (feature-length) film nominated for an award. So I began my quest here. While I wasn’t enamored by the makeup (in fact, I didn’t notice it; “District 9” was robbed), I did enjoy the film. It’s imperfect, but brilliant in spots, and if it took a strange makeup nomination to get me to watch it, I won’t complain about the Academy’s decision.

“Il Divo” tells the shocking story of Giulio Andreotti, an Italian senator who many believe was behind the murder of several journalists, mafia members, and fellow political figures. The film tells us all of this in the jaw-dropping opening minutes. In hindsight, however, it may have been a mistake. We know the whole story before it is told, and the film ends without even reaching the point at which we know the story ends.

Still, these first few minutes are exciting and original. If there was an Oscar category for best use of non-diegetic text onscreen, this one would be neck-and-neck with “Zombieland” (think of the way the “rules” were displayed onscreen in that film). The music in “Il Divo” is also exceptional, but especially in the beginning. It never fits in with what’s going on in the film, but in a good way. For example, as Andreotti prepares to go to trial, blaring techno beats play in the background. It’s kind of jarring, but it injects some originality and excitement into the proceedings, which at times, grind to a halt.

The story itself is inherently interesting, but I found the presentation to be jumbled. Too many characters were introduced with too little information about them. There was a few occasions in which I was completely lost, and other times in which my confusion made me lose interest.

One of the films other great strengths is its cinematography. The camera is always moving. It’s not quick, Bourne-like movement, but rather long, unbroken takes. It gives everything a classy, elegant feeling, and it never makes the film feel rushed.

The acting is good, but hardly anything to get excited about. Toni Servillo plays Andreotti. I don’t know anything about the real man, but I presume there was a lot of mimicry in the performance (i.e. the way he walks and the constant blank look on his face). Servillo is solid. He is in nearly every scene, so his performance is vital to the film’s success, but there weren’t any memorable moments or scenes. When I think about this film a few months from now, I’ll remember the music, the camerawork, the strange makeup nomination. I can already tell I won’t remember much about this performance. And none of the other actors has enough screen time to bother pointing out. Many of the characters blend together (the film is populated with way too many older, upper class Italian gentlemen), so I really couldn’t discuss them in detail even if I wanted to.

I’m glad I watched “Il Divo,” but it isn’t a film I’d care to see again. It starts out so strongly, but it’s slowly downhill from there, right up until its abrupt conclusion. There were a few inspired moments in between, but it can’t live up to those first few minutes when I thought this was going to be a truly exceptional motion picture.

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