Sunday, October 15, 2023

Ferrari (2023) NYFF 2023

Michael Mann's FERRARI is pretty okay.

I mean that sincerely, it's a pretty okay film. I say this because  that was the thought I kept having all through the movie. 

The film is the story of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver)  over a several month period in 1957 ending in the tragic final running of the Mille Miglia. It also coincides with his wife Laura (Penelope Cruz) discovering that he has a son with another woman.

This was a project that Michael Mann has been trying to put together for years. Mann was finally able to pull it together and the result is a film that is like the pet projects of many great filmmakers, a film that is only going to mean something to him. 

What I mean is that the filmmakers know so much about their subject that they forgot to put all of that on to the screen. With FERRARI the script leaves a great deal out concerning Laura. Reduced to an angry bitter woman, unhappy about the death of her son and the infidelities of her husband, we don't get to know what a kick ass woman she was who was truly in the trenches with her husband. As Mann said at the NYFF press screening she was doing more than bookkeeping and would, among other things, sleep with the tires for the race cars so no one messed with them.

All through the talk Mann and his actors mentioned things about the Ferrarris that they learned in doing research on the couple. Every time some detailed was mentioned I could hear people around me react audibly including wanting to know why he bit wasn't included. For me, each new revelation made me wonder why we weren't told that since it gives me a better understanding of what was happening. In relating the stories that were never in the script Enzo stopped being a walled off figure and Laura became more than a grief stricken mother. I kept thinking that if some of what Mann and the others had said after the film was included, even by of a line or two, the film would have been so much better. We would have had real people on screen and not two characters who are ciphers we can see anyway we want.

To be honest I don't know why the film has been a festival darling. While the film is far from bad, it is really unremarkable. It's so "okay" that I'm pretty certain that had Michael Mann not directed  no one would have paid any attention to it.

I think part of the reason the film is getting the attention is the racing sequences. They are spectacular. There is a visceral quality to them that, I, a life long race fan, responded to. The crash, when it occurs is shocking and produced a audible reaction in the people around me. I knew what was coming and it still rattled my cage. I wanted to hit rewind and see it again.

Racing sequences aside, Is this a bad film? No. It's a perfectly adequate one. It's enjoyable, but it isn't anything special.

(An aside- is this the moment that Adam Driver jumps the shark? His quiet brooding performance is nothing special and lacking all the character detail, except an Italian accent, of other films it seems like he is coasting. Could it be that he isn't that good an actor and has just been playing all his roles the same way and we never noticed? Seriously without the character ticks of other scripts there is nothing here. It's a performance emptier than his Ben Solo turn, which was kind of interesting due to the histrionics he performed with. It such a nothing role that it suddenly occurred to me this nothing is what he's been doing all along)

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