From the Vine (2019) – Film Review
Director: Sean Cisterna
Cast: Joe Pantoliano, Paula Brancati, Wendy Crewson
By @Roger Crow
Ah the good old midlife crisis movie. Where would be without them?
In City Slickers, depressed businessman Billy Crystal was so bummed out that he was selling radio airtime, and hadn’t smiled in ages, it forced him to go off and become a cowboy with his mates. In A Good Year, Ridley Scott’s take on Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, depressed businessman Russell Crowe went off to France to find romance and the humanity he lost.
It’s a tried and tested formula that touches a chord with all wage slaves of a certain age, especially those that have been stuck in a job for too long.
The key element is rustic, back to basics. Those steely grey cityscapes haven’t got a chance of lingering in the hearts when they are intercut with shots of RUSTIC villages, towns. Folks eating peasant food. Grapes, bread, pasta. None of those fast food staples. Just as long as the food was made with love and care by POOR, RUSTIC people.
“State of disrepair”
Yes, you’re right. I have seen a lot of these films over the years, usually while dreaming of escaping to somewhere rustic and peasanty where I can eat bread and cheese and sit in a sun-kissed field overlooking peasants doing rustic things.
So here we go then with another of the generic midlife crisis movies.
The key protagonist is Mark Gentile, a lawyer and car company executive. He travels to Italy after a major humiliation in business, returning to the tiny village of Acerenza, visiting the vineyard where he grew up. Alas, he finds it in a state of disrepair.
He gets an idea to bring the overgrown property back to life and start producing wine again.
Our hero convinces various citizens of Acerenza to help him in this seemingly impractical effort, promising everyone a share in the business if it is successful.
“Lift the spirits”
Joe Pantoliano has long been one of the most reliable character actors in the business, usually stealing scenes in support as the best friend, the witty cop or the Judas character, so it’s nice to see him carry a movie as feelgood and formulaic as this.
It ticks over, the script is pretty good and it’s well shot. Those Italian locations are a feast for the eyes and everything is as cosy and life-affirming as a bowl of soup on a cold day.
Trouble is it feels like a movie that was crafted by committee, or an ad company trying to flog the cars that sent Mark off on his mission in the first place.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this sort of thing, and as the dark nights get ever darker, it’s certainly stuff to lift the spirits.
But there could have been so much more to it. Just be less predictable.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to ponder on the meaning of life while eating peasant food and staring at rustic things.