"Remember Me, My Love" is a decorative Italian soap opera with an asterisk for earnest aspirations. Its beautiful people say painful things to each other in gorgeous clothes, and though the film expects us to take their problems seriously, it's awfully hard to do so.
"Remember Me" wants us to feel for its characters and even manages some watchable performances, but the film's attempts at emotional seriousness turn out to be no more than glib, and its use of melodramatic contrivances rivals Yiddish theater. Attractive protagonists looking good are not a bad thing but can take you only so far.
"Remember Me" was written and slickly directed by Gabriele Muccino, who also has a successful career as a director of commercials. Taken together with his previous film, "The Last Kiss," which focused on an about-to-be father who can't resist a final fling with a gorgeous high school student, "Remember Me" establishes Muccino as a kind of poet laureate of the self-involved, the major-domo of the me generation.
The only thing that unites the family of four at the center of "Remember Me" is how determined each of them is to think solely about himself or herself and exclude the wants and needs of everyone else in the immediate vicinity. It's a narcissist's picnic; all of the characters are so unapologetically selfish in their passion to maximize their human potential that it's difficult to care about any of them, one way or another.
Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) and his wife, Giulia (the always effective Laura Morante), have been married long enough to have two teenage children, but they are now doing more bickering than communicating and merely going through the motions of being a family.
Their children, 17-year-old Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff) and 15-year-old Paolo (Silvio Muccino), are similarly united only by their mutual distaste for their parents and their endless capacity to whine about how unhappy their privileged existences are. "I don't want to live meaninglessly," Valentina, whose bright shining goal in life is (no kidding) to work as a hot pants dancer on a TV game show, screams at her mother. Clearly, this is a group whose members don't need to spend a lot more time putting themselves first.
Giulia, who was an actress before marriage forced her to hide her creativity under a basket, gets the ball rolling by agreeing to appear in what looks to be a terrible play directed by a charismatic director given to saying things like "Art is like love, it is always hungry."
Husband Carlo, a businessman with an unfinished novel sitting in a drawer that sounds as awful as his wife's play, takes things a step further when he runs into old flame Alessia (Monica Bellucci, using her native Italian to good advantage) at a family party. "Are you a happy husband?" she asks him. "I am ... a husband" comes the stifled reply. Oh the horror, the horror of unrealized potential. Can passionate couplings in a house conveniently perched atop pounding ocean waves be far behind?
While son Paolo's problem is the standard one -- the cute girl he has a crush on thinks he's a nerd -- daughter Valentina's plight is less straightforward. Her undying passion to be one of the resident hotties on a show called "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves" is a much more unusual situation that the film (which spends considerable screen time ogling Valentina in a variety of tight outfits) handles in a, shall we say, unorthodox way.
While a less self-consciously "contemporary" film might look at least a little askance at a 17-year-old, who in effect sleeps her way to success as a bimbette in training, "Remember Me" apparently thinks being true to yourself in this manner is a great step forward in any young person's life. It feels the same about her brother's stealing a considerable sum from the family to buy enough marijuana to impress that girlfriend. These are people who have the courage to go for it, who follow their dream and recapture their bliss. Could anything be better than that?
'Remember Me, My Love'
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Drug use, some sexual activity and nudity
Fabrizio Bentivoglio ... Carlo
Laura Morante ... Giulia
Nicoletta Romanoff ... Valentina
Silvio Muccino ... Paolo
Released by Roadside Attractions. Director Gabriele Muccino. Producer Domenico Procacci. Screenplay Gabriele Muccino, Heidrun Schleef. Cinematographer Marcello Montarsi. Editor Claudio Di Mauro. Costumes Gemma Mascagni. Music Paolo Buonvino. Production design Paola Bizzarri. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.
In limited release.