MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING (PUO BACCIARE LO SPOSO), 2018, Italy. Starring Diego Abatantuono, Monica Guerritore, Salvatore Esposito, Cristiano Cammaco, Dino Abrascia, Diana del Bufalo, Beatrice Arnera. Directed by Alessandro Genovesi. 92 minutes, Rated M (Coarse language).
Ethnic big weddings got an enormous boost many years ago with that big fat Greek wedding in Chicago (and its sequel). There have been lots of wedding movies, many with the touch of the extravaganza, and here is another. And, of course, a difference.
The film began life as an off-Broadway play – and, quite a number of times throughout the action, it slows down for strong conversation sequences, quite arresting in their content, but played very conventionally, the camera looking at one character to another, intentionally leaving the words to speak for themselves (but with rather flat visuals).
Other than those sequences, in fact, the play is opened out considerably, with early scenes in Berlin, a trip to Italy and the South and an extraordinary location of a town built on top of a mountain with a vast causeway bridge leading up to it.
And these are the settings then for the gay wedding.
The main protagonist, Antonio, is introduced as a charming young man, engaging with his friend, Paolo, both of them trying to get auditions as actors in Berlin. Then, Antonio proposes (and is accepted) and the adventures begin. There is a most irritating character in the film, Camilla, who grew up with Antonio, is infatuated with him, his breaking off an engagement with her, her stalking him in the streets and, most awkwardly for all, stalking him when he gets home to celebrate the wedding. And she does a star disturbing upset at the wedding!
There is also their landlady, an eccentric young woman, who interviews a prospective roommate who turns out to be, to put it mildly, eccentric. And that is to do with cross-dressing.
So, a group of unusual characters turning up in this southern Italian town where Antonio’s father is the mayor, a huge man, presiding over the town council, encouraging tolerance towards refugees who will build up the town which is in process of economic collapse.
The first issue is telling Antonio’s parents – and we have anticipated the results, the father with a homophobic touch, the mother who has been aware of her son’s orientation for a long time. There is also the issue of the demand that Paolo’s mother, and they have been estranged for three years, must attend the wedding.
Which reminds us of the Italian setting and Catholic morality traditions. They arrive in Holy Week and there is a traditional Passion procession throughout the town with Antonio as Jesus. It is a setting for a gay wedding in southern Italy, same-sex marriages being legal, able to be conducted by the town’s mayor. There is also a sympathetic Franciscan Friar whose forte is not Canon Law but who looks at the portrait of Pope Francis on the wall and insists that love, authentic love, should be the criterion for relationships, echoes of “who am I to judge?”.
There is a de-consecrated church in the town which seems to provide an attractive setting for the marriage, a professional brought in for decoration, the town council seeing the opportunity for tourism (while the mayor attacks them for wanting to turn the town into Queeropolis).
There is quite a bit more drama to go, fire to the church, Camilla and her histrionics – but, Antonio’s father has not been impressed by his son’s and Paolo’s involvement in musicals in Berlin. Of course, how to end this film? Obviously, a musical, the whole town involved, with the touch of the Busby Berkeleys.
While this is all done with the light touch, there are, of course, serious themes underlying the drama and comedy, issues of same-sex marriages, the law, religious traditions, acceptance over and above tolerance, and all these issues given a human face. Which should help give that dimension to those involved in discussions, whatever their stances.
Palace Released June 6th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.