Comically flat, emotionally thin but not-entirely-charmless, “Out of My League” is a distinctly Italian take on young love shadowed by terminal illness.
Like more than one Italian film that I’ve taken in as we journey “around the world with Netflix,” it seems quaint, dated and retrograde by North American standards. Would Hollywood serve up a self-described “ugly duckling,” the butterfly who “stayed a caterpillar” heroine we see here, what with all the image-embracing and “shaming” eschewing going on?
But this is Turin, not Tampa. Marta (Ludovica Francesconi) is a perky, petite pixie, a 19 year-old orphaned as a toddler, resigned to her Plain Giada looks. And that’s not all she’s resigned to.
“The worst is yet to come,” she narrates (in dubbed English, or Italian with English subtitles).
She was orphaned at 3, and the two things her parents left her are the family home, which she’s finally taken possession of, and mucoviscidosis. That’s another name for cystic fibrosis. Her lungs fill with mucus under a whole raft of conditions, and her future looks circumscribed and short.
She may have two gay BFFs, one more than the rom-com minimum. And Federica (Gaja Masciale) and Jacopo (Jozef Gjura) may go everywhere with her, even joining her for medical appointments. But they’re not amused by her gallows humor.
“How long have I got?”
Her doctor’s assurances of “What matters is your attitude” seems like a cop out. Because Marta is bubbling over with attitude. Her job at the local food coop includes giving sexy, sensual readings of “Today’s specials” memos over the PA system, so sultry that men and boys are always shoving come-on notes under her door. She pins them to her office “wailing wall,” laughing at her one chance to be the one dismissing potential suitors.
Her BFFs encourage her to scan through Tinder, even as she admits “my sex appeal is best expressed on a keypad.
But there is the one guy, young, rich and handsome, that she has eye for. As there’s no sense waiting around, she proceeds to stalk, pursue and generally get in the sightlines of hunky, arrogant Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio).
There’s a hint of “Sixteen Candles” to this pursuit. The last thing Marta expects is for Arturo to notice her back and call her bluff.
First-time feature director Alice Filippi and screenwriters Roberto Proia and Michela Straniero shove in the usual assortment of “big gestures,” first date makeover montage, the “karoake” moment (he sings “Fly Me to the Moon” in fractured English) and obstacles to love and devotion. Those of course are topped with the with the easily-anticipated “She’s not telling him she’s sick” twist.
Everything we see feels contrived. Nothing we see or hear plays as “funny” and even “cute” seems beyond this flat romance’s reach.
When you can’t make anything funny out of the two gay 19 year-old roommates (they live with Marta in her house) haplessly trying to make a baby for reasons we can never fathom, you ruin the highs before the story’s arc shows you the lows — coughing jags, oxygen tubes up the nose, hospitals and the like.
I never bought into any of this. Maggio is a foot taller and hits the gym, and Francesconi’s best efforts can’t make the scripted Marta witty, funny or charming enough to merit a second glance.
Rating: TV-MA, sexual situations, nudity, profanity
Cast: Ludovica Francesconi, Giuseppe Maggio, Gaja Masciale and Jozef Gjura.
Credits: Directed by Alice Filippi, scripted by Roberto Proia and Michela Straniero. An Eagle Films Netflix release.
Running time: 1:31