Movie Review: Bland Americans in Sicily, “A Chance Encounter”

There’s nothing worth getting worked up about over “A Chance Encounter,” so no sense wasting an “infuriatingly dull” or “tentatively tepid” over it.

It’s never more than a senseless waste of seldom-filmed Sicilian locations whose view is blocked by the two blandest leads this side of “milque” and “toast.”

The film is a rom-com star vehicle for folk singer Andrea von Kampen, aptly enough a discovery of NPR’s “Tiny Desk” concert series. Let’s just say she’s not ready for a bigger stage and move on.

Paul Petersen, who co wrote this, stars as Hal, an Iowa printing shop tourist who has made his way to Taormina, where Oscar Wilde once sheltered and scribbled. He’s brought a photograph of a pretty woman who once visited, and his notebook. He’s an aspiring poet.

He stumbles into this singer busking at one of the many scenic Sicilian overlooks, and after complimenting her “cover” of a tune he recognizes, he realizes that was no “cover.” It’s Josie Day — a traveling troubadour who has one album under her belt, and who has come to Sicily, with her always handy Martin guitar, for inspiration.

They connect as two creative folks looking for the muse to strike. She bucks up his nerve and ambition, he flatters her by being the only soul on the island — including other American tourists — who knows who she is.

As Josie has been here a while, she will show him the sights and badger him into reading her his poems.

“We’re both here to write, and I find you interesting,” she says, stating one obvious fact and a just as obvious lie.

I’d say they “click” but they don’t. There’s little chemistry and zero heat here, which lowers the stakes. It’s hard to root for a romance when there’s little sign the actors enacting it have any skin in the game, either.

The “relationship” is blown from the moment the “meet cute” fails to land.

The sense of place isn’t vivid enough to overcome the colorless young tourists standing in front of the scenery or leaping up from every unfinished Sicilian meal to do something else made more boring by the fact that they’re doing it.

The dull screenplay does the actors no favors, and the charisma-starved players respond in kind.

His “poetry” isn’t poetic and her tunes are instantly forgettable in that lilting, airy country folk navel gazing sort of way, though a Stephen Foster cover von Kampen sings is quite affecting.

Chalk this one up to experience, one and all. And don’t come back until you’ve got more to show us. This is, in most every way, a “Chance” blown.

Rating: unrated, as smidge of profanity, danged close to a “G.”

Cast: Andrea von Kampen, Paul Petersen

Credits: Directed by Alexander Jefferey, scripted by Alexander Jeffery and Paul Petersen. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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