Thursday, 3 February 2011



I have never been one for hating the rich as a principle. I can't get the logic behind it: most of us want to be rich, or at least richer than we currently are, and why would we want to become something we hate? Rich people suffer too, and a marital breakdown or an untimely bereavement are just as traumatic and distressing whether your heart is breaking on a Louis XIV divan or a stained and lumpy old sofa you bought out of the local classifieds. It's just happening in more glamorous and showy surroundings where everything and everyone is beautiful. James Bond jets around the world on an unlimited expenses account (when was the last time he booked into a Travelodge?), Thomas Crown is so rich that he plans elaborate heists just to alleviate the boredom, loneliness and misery. Why would I sit and watch Coronation Street or EastEnders, Mike Leigh or Ken Loach when I can watch the beautiful and sexy at play? Hell, they're even bringing back Dallas.

I was reminded of Dallas while watching I Am Love, a frankly meaninglessly-titled family saga centring on the massively wealthy Recchi textiles dynasty based in Milan. Like many of these things, it has to start with a family celebration - aging grandfather's birthday and the announcement of his successor at the head of the business - where we can get to know who's who, their relationships and characters. But what's important is the growing bond between Miss Ellie.... er, Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton) and her son Eduardo's best friend Antonio, an up-and-coming chef planning an exclusive and incredibly remote nouvelle cuisine restaurant. Meanwhile, the daughter has come out as a lesbian, and Eduardo is engaged to a local girl who works in a bookshop (but her family owns property, so that's alright). Obviously it's all going to end in tears....

And so what? It's very hard to care - not because they're outrageously, obscenely rich, but simply because the movie's so inert. Despite looking absolutely beautiful there's no fun to be had, no thrills, and very little in the way of emotional connection, and the family fireworks, when they come, aren't nearly explosive enough and all too brief. As a film, it's very nicely photographed but the John Adams score is wildly inappropriate in its placing of music that's way over the top in scenes where not very much is happening. At two hours, it's a drag, especially early on, and I found myself glancing at the DVD timer and thinking "25 per cent done", which I absolutely shouldn't have done because the film should have held my interest far more firmly than it managed to.

Despite the luxurious settings, it's fundamentally soap opera and if Dallas had been like this it would surely have been cancelled after a couple of episodes. I wanted to like it - the reviews were generally positive and Quentin Tarantino named it as one of his Top Twenty of 2010. I just wish I could agree.


Here it is, if you want it:

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