Mental health “comedies” are a problematic genre, even when the film in question is an “Around the World with Netflix” rom-com from Italy. “Marilyn’s Eyes” proves that even Italy’s more old-fashioned sense of who and what we can laugh at in no way gives such a picture a pass.
This is meant to be a farcical romp about a therapy group who check in daily at a mental health center with all manner of maladies, but who run an exclusive, buzzed-about fine dining eatery out of the “food lab” kitchen, which is meant to be a part of their therapy.
“Only in Italy,” you say, and just for the first time. Because these assorted compulsives, manic depressives, Tourettes and you-name-its patients are unsupervised as they “invite the outside world in” as part of their treatment. What could go wrong?
Diego (Stefano Accorsi) is a wound-too-tight OCD sufferer who has lost his marriage and can only see his little girl in supervised visits. We get it. We’ve seen him have a complete restaurant-trashing meltdown in the opening scene, a rage captured in slow motion, no less. A customer “wound me up” (in Italian with subtitles, or dubbed into English) just by moving the flower in his perfectly-arranged table setting.
Diego’s therapist (Thomas Trabacci) insists that he keep coming to group therapy until he figures out that doing “things that have consequences” isn’t good for him.
That’s prescribed for Clara (Miriam Leone), too. She’s a vain, delusional free spirit who is an actress and a compulsive liar and prone to lashing out episodes, just like Diego.
“I didn’t mean to set him on fire!”
Clara can’t even bring herself to sit within the neat circle of fellow patients, convinced as she is that “I’m going back to my life.” No, she isn’t.
Group therapy is a chaotic shout-off amongst the extroverts — the martyred paranoid Armando (Mario Pirello) and Tourrettes-twisted Susana (Orietta Notari) are the loudest.
And whatever the reaction we’re meant to have to these creations of screenwriter Giulia Steigerwalt, director Simone Godano and the actors playing the roles, the thing that overwhelms the viewer in regarding them is sadness.
To a one, even the “pretty” ones (the leads and the younger, silent “Gina,” played by Valentina Oteri), are confused, upset and sick. Some of them are even potentially violent, and have that track record.
Diego’s visits with his kid are as apt to go off the rails, with or without supervision, as they are to bond father to a daughter he is sure will forget him thanks to her mother’s new man.
A chance “make a meal together” assignment shows everyone’s struggles, writ large. But that becomes a daily routine as they cook for outsiders from a senior’s center, Chef Diego prepping one main course every day, eventually adding dessert, etc.
From that comes Clara’s latest flighty delusion. They’ll use the cooking lab kitchen and informal “restaurant” to create a “real” fake restaurant. She’ll fake a website and fill it with fake reviews. And she’ll name the joint “Monroe’s,” because somebody told her she looks just like Marilyn.
The institutional furniture will be augmented with a few lampshades and a little neon, the walls decorated in deranged Armando’s tribute to Edvard Munch.
The servers will be passed off as “atmosphere.” Their “performance” will create a “unique dining experience.” Every screaming match, every meltdown, every profane Tourrettes “F-you” when taking an order are all written off to the vibe they’re trying to create.
The restaurant twist here, with the place attaining “real” buzz thanks to Clara’s “fake” buzz, is nonsensical. Even the OCDs amongst them wouldn’t be organized enough to pass a health inspection or remember to have cash on hand to make change for the legions of foodies who show up.
Yes, this review is doing a lot of “labeling,” summing up characters by their illnesses. It’s not fair, but that’s what the movie does.
There’s precious little comedy to any of this as distracted Clara takes her fragile granny to an amusement park where Clara lets her get hurt, Diego seems to go above and beyond “restraining order” in his meltdowns around his ex and his kid and even the too-many-crackpots in the kitchen and group therapy scenes fail to deliver laugh-out-loud light moments.
Leone, who once starred in the historical drama “A Cup of Coffee with Marilyn,” makes an agreeable “manic pixie dreamgirl with a side order of madness,” even if she’s a tad old for that label. Accorsi’s still too-obviously 14 years her senior, and Diego has so little charm peeking out from under his illness that we can’t figure out what she’d see in him.
“Marilyn’s Eyes” has a few ideas worth running with. But in an effort to not be “problematic,” to show these people’s problems as real enough to make them a danger to themselves or others, the filmmakers have created a mental health comedy that manages almost nothing that’s funny, and a dramedy nobody would believe, in or out of Italy.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity
Cast: Miriam Leone, Stefano Accorsi, Thomas Trabacci
Credits: Directed by Simone Godano, scripted by Giulia Steigerwalt. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:54