The Family Friend

Written and Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Screening at FACT (27th-30th April 2007)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The film has a very ironic title, given that the family friend is a loan shark! There is no such thing as a good loan shark but this particular individual, Geremia de Geremei (Giacomo Rizzo), is loathsome. He dislikes everything and almost everyone (one exception being his invalid mother, who he still lives with, even though he is seventy-years-old), rapes women, orders henchmen to kill people who fail to pay him back on time, as well as being ugly, smelly and miserly (despite his wealth he shoplifts inexpensive food items).

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, there are strong elements in the film of the influence on him of David Lynch.

There are nightmare visions, many surreal moments, and a willingness not to shrink back from displaying the baser kinds of mankind and individuals on screen. When The Family Friend opens with a nun being buried up to her head in sand, for no apparent reason, and then moves on to de Geremei wearing a handkerchief around his forehead - it is in fact a potato poultice - then you know this is going to be one hell of a wacky film.

He declares himself to be "the least charming man in the world", and he clearly does not care about that. His role in life is to be a parasite of the first degree, exploiting people's financial hardship.

His other obsession is young women, notably Rosalba (Laura Chiati), the gorgeous daughter of his latest clients, who have taken out a loan with him to pay for her wedding.

She agrees, initially, to give Geremia a blowjob on her wedding day, in exchange for reducing his financial demands on her parents. She then – mysteriously – falls in love with him, and is ever ready to surrender her body to him.

Would-be cowboy Gino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) – who has an immense love for country and western music and wants to move to Nashville – appears to be the only friend the loan shark has. He brings a human touch and warmth in his desire to realise a dream that he knows deep down that he will never fulfil. The sequences of them fishing together are very comical; I will not spoil it by revealing why.

I am sure that a lot of people will dislike this movie, simply because they don't understand it – as is the case with the films of Lynch – but who cares, I think it's great!

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