People Suck, and So Does This Movie

Take heart; the Italians are as bad as the Americans if 'Human Capital' is proof

Which is more pathetic, that this dumb mishmash of narratives was Italy’s selection to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (it did not receive a nomination) or that the people who pull the strings thought this trite ideological fable would appeal to the string-pullers at the Academy? If Human Capital is the kind of thing that’s supposed to pass for great foreign cinema these days, we’re all assuredly fucked. (Remember when Amour won Best Foreign Film two years ago? What happened to movies like that?)


Not that Human Capital doesn’t have its pluses. It looks great, with handsome cinematography by Jérôme Alméras (who shot the winter sequences) and Simon Beaufils (who took care of the warm weather stuff), and smart art and set design work. There are also solid performances by Matilde Gioli and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. But it’s all for naught, as this is a toothless version of Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, or worse, a financial riff on Paul Haggis’ wretched Crash.


Like Crash, there are multiple stories that come together in the end. (At least here, unlike in Crash, there’s a legitimate reason these people may end up interacting.) But each story is long, dull, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have been one narrative.


On Christmas Eve, someone driving an SUV runs a cycling catering worker off the road. The SUV driver stops momentarily and then takes off, leaving the cyclist injured and alone.


That’s the catalyst for the story, as all the players we later meet are involved, at least tangentially. Human Capital is the story of two families, one wealthy, one middle class, and the way their lives are intertwined, but there are two narratives spread across the four chapters that make up the film. One narrative: Rich people are assholes. Other narrative: Middle class (and sometimes poor) people have ambitions beyond their grasp and get into deep shit, financially and otherwise, because of it.


That’s reductive, but Human Capital thinks because it looks good it doesn’t have to provide pesky things such as character or story (or maybe it thinks its paper-thin story can stand on its own).


Fabrizio Bentivoglio is Dino Ossola, a moderately successful real estate broker who makes a deal with big swingin’ financial dick Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni) to go in on a fund he can’t afford. Dino’s daughter Serena (Gioli) is dating Giovanni’s son (Guglielmo Pinelli); the son may have been driving the SUV. But it may also have been Serena’s secret maybe-addict boyfriend Luca (Giovanni Anzaldo). I’d mention Tedeschi’s character if she had anything to do with the plot in the larger scheme of things, but she doesn’t.


Who ran over the cyclist? Will the fund go belly up? Is Dino a moron? Do you even care? You probably won’t, if only because Bentivoglio’s performance is so distasteful it leaves a pall over the rest of the film. He feels like he should be in a Vinny Vedecci sketch on Saturday Night Live with Bill Hader.


By the way, the answers to those questions are, “Who cares?” “Who cares?” “Duh,” and “No, you shouldn’t.” But if you made it this far and still plan on seeing Human Capital, pack a lunch. It’s just shy of two hours, but feels like it’s five. Maybe that’s because you’ll figure out what’s going on long before its characters do but still have to sit through the whole mess.



Directed by Paolo Virzì

With Tedeschi, Bentivoglio and Gioli

The Screen

111 min.

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