Starring: Fabrizio Bentivolgio, Matilde Gioli, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Director: Paolo Virzi
Adapted from the novel by Stephen Amidon, Human Capital concerns itself with the events leading up to and following a fatal hit and run. It’s a mystery that involves two families – the averagely middle class Ossolas and the stinking rich Bernaschis – who are linked because their teenage children, Serena (Matilde Gioli) and Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) are going out with each other. The cyclist was knocked down by Massimiliano’s SUV, but who was driving it? Broken into chapters seen from three differing viewpoints, the film pieces together the sequence of events, creating an intriguing puzzle out of the messiness of existence.
It’s a story that makes use of somewhat stock characters – Dino Ossolo (Fabrizio Bentivolgio), the embarrassing oik of a dad who tries to muscle in on the lucrative hedge fund run by Massimiliano’s father, the coolly predatory Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni), and Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) his twittery-voiced nervous wreck of a wife – but the script is compellingly convoluted and director Paolo Virzi’s assured, glossy visuals pile on the tension. He’s also helped out by a couple of fine performances from the female cast members. As Carla, the desperate housewife who’s lost all confidence in herself, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi has many of the film’s best moments – the story segues into social comedy as she takes an interest in restoring a run-down theatre and tries to organize support from the local culture vultures, a task that is like wrangling cats, and there’s a rawly emotional sequence where she is driving round on a snowy day and suddenly begins to unravel inside her car.
Equally as striking is Matilde Gioli as Serena, Dino’s independent and secretive daughter, who is forever zipping around on her scooter, tossing cutting remarks in her wake, and whose complicated personal affairs are at the heart of the mystery. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Gioli looks like a young Angelina Jolie, but she’s much more than a pretty face. She shows your her character’s hard shell and her mixed-up inner core and wins you over to her side even when she’s making crazy decisions, and her nude scenes also bring a sensual frisson to what is otherwise quite a frosty, introverted tale.
The film’s title (a legal term to do with the settling of accident claims) would seem to suggest a taking to task of the bourgeoisie for its heartlessness and mercenary ways, but lurking behind that is a more specific theme of the uselessness of guys and what women go through because of them. Ladies watching this DVD might therefore find themselves nodding in heartfelt recognition even as they eye up the chic Italian décor.