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‘Human Capital’: The acting better than the attitude in Italian drama

By Patrick Z. McGavin | For the Sun-Times

The destructive allure of money and a desire for social significance bind radically different Northern Italian families in the jolting if only intermittently successful drama “Human Capital.”

Director Paolo Virzi and his co-writers Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo have adapted the novel by the American writer Stephen Amidon. Told in flashback, the movie is composed in three interlinked chapters each captured from a different character and charts their connection to a violent incident that opens the movie.

Dino Ossola (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is a middle-class businessman who utilizes a fleeting social connection to recklessly leverage his holdings to finance an aggressive position in a hedge fund operated by Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni).

Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), the hedge fund manager’s glamorous wife, ignores her husband’s increasingly dire financial standing to bankroll the restoration of a baroque theater. The third and most satisfying section examines Dino’s beautiful daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) as she oscillates between two very different romantic possibilities.

Virzi demonstrates a strong talent for actors, and the movie works best as their showcase. The great Bruni Tedeschi, a radiant presence in contemporary Italian and French art cinema, captures the wounded compromise of a woman who’s overlooked her husband’s questionable business practices because of the attendant privilege. Bentivoglio has a japing, comic style that acquires an absurdist touch. The ravishing Gioli evinces both tenderness and volatility. The always fine Valeria Golino is another standout as Dino’s wife.

Virzi tends to illustrate his ideas rather than dramatically shape them, and what he has to say about money, power and the nature of greed is rarely invigorating. The film is further undone by an overwrought ending and toneless conclusion that proves too soft to energize the movie’s implied though underdeveloped social critique.

[s3r star=2.5/4]

Film Movement presents a film directed by Paolo Virzi and written by Virzi, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo. In Italian with English subtitles. Running time: 110 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.