Review by Adam Donato
Adam Leon writes and directs his first movie since 2016’s Tramps for Netflix. This film corrals the highest profile actress he’s worked with to date, Vanessa Kirby, as the lead. Kirby plays as a seemingly aimless woman as she goes around the city trying to find out what she is looking for. Along the way, she has many conversations with the strangers that she meets and finds herself in many weird social situations. Despite her loss of memory, a couple nuggets of information that are known is that she is the author of a popular book called Italian Studies and she is trying to interview young people for her next book.
This movie is beyond frustrating. Was the opening paragraph of this review vague and almost nonsensical? If so, then it accurately portrays what it’s like to watch this movie and try to decipher what’s going on. There are so many situations that she puts herself into that are so uncomfortable to watch. She goes to a store, asks for a cup of hot water, and has no way of paying for it so the guy chews her out. Funniest part, she has the gall to argue with him as if she’s not totally full of it. On another occasion, she tries to get a room at a hotel by going up to the front desk, saying she lost her key card for a random room number, and has no answer for who’s name the room is under. It’s incredibly annoying and confusing.
The most interesting aspect of the movie are the youths that Kirby hangs out with and interviews. They talk about their lives and whatever weird thoughts they have. A large aspect of the movie is whether things that happen on screen are real or imagined, especially the conversations she has. The ones with the children seem to have consequences as she clearly rubs off on them and their relationship develops. There’s a conversation about purposefully losing your memory as an exercise, so it’s entirely possible that this is all just an author just studying the behavior of the people she randomly meets. That being said, this movie is not deep. There’s a conversation had about whether or not three pieces of bread stacked together would be a bread sandwich.
Luckily, the movie is short. Rocking at eighty one minutes long, it almost feels like a dream as the audience is just floating around the city with Kirby. The movie is shot well enough, but nothing notable. There’s segments of the movie where the youths will perform live music. It’s entirely possible that someone watches this movie and totally gets it. This certainly isn’t a plot movie, it’s definitely more concerned with the vibe. The benefit of the doubt will not be given as sitting through this movie feels like a chore.
Italian Studies tests your patience and will make you hate other people more than you already do. Filled with awkward encounters and crackhead youths, this movie is annoyingly into itself. It’s like C’mon C’mon if the kids that Joaquin Phoenix interviews were a decade older/dumber and the kid he is responsible for taking care of is replaced with amnesia. Hint, if you’re first thought when you look at the movie poster is “Isn’t that Jason Statham’s sister from Hobbs & Shaw?” then odds are this movie is not for you.
Italian Studies hits theaters and VOD on January 15.