©Greg King 1997 Melbourne Australia
Director: Paul Weiland
Stars: Jean Reno, Mercedes Ruehl, Mark Frankel, Polly Walker,
Luigi Diberti, Roberto Della Cassa, Trevor Peacock.
Not since Harold And Maude has there been such a deliciously funny black comedy about death.
Marcello (popular French actor Jean Reno, from Mission: Impossible, etc) owns a small restaurant in the tiny Italian village of Trivento. His wife Roseanna (Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl, from The Fisher King, etc) suffers from a degenerative heart disease, and her one wish is to be buried in the local cemetery next to her deceased daughter. But space is at a premium in the already overcrowded cemetery, with only three plots left. Despite Marcello’s pleas, embittered wealthy landowner Capestro (Luigi Diberti) refuses to sell the church some of his vacant land adjoining the cemetery. The reasons for Capestro’s selfish actions are buried in the past, as Roseanna rejected both him and his wealth in favour of a more simple but honest life with Marcello. Marcello desperately tries to prevent anyone else in the town from dying before Roseanna, which leads to some hilarious situations.
In the wrong hands, For Roseanna could have easily descended into bad taste. However, the off beat and original scenario crackles with a sparkling, infectious humour and winning style that enables the audience to laugh at some of its more outrageous and appalling moments, such as suicide, and Marcello’s ingenious attempts to hide the body of a prominent citizen who has inconveniently died in a car accident.
For Roseanna is wonderfully scripted by veteran tv comedy writer Saul Turteltaub (who has written and produced over 30 sitcoms including Love American Style, etc), making his feature film debut. British director Paul Weiland’s first film was City Slickers 2, but here he finds an assured mix of wicked black humour and a more physical brand of comedy. Despite its bizarre plot, however, For Roseanna is essentially a romantic comedy, and Weiland’s slick direction manages to capture the whimsical tone of the material.
Weiland has assembled an international cast who manage to capture the off- beat tone and frantic pace of the farcical material. Reno is wonderful as Marcello, bringing a manic energy to his performance, which is the centre piece of the film. Ruehl manages to suffuse her terminally-ill Roseanna with a quiet strength, passion and thirst for life that enriches the character. For Roseanna is dedicated to Mark Frankel, the young British actor who, ironically, died in a motorcycle crash soon after completing work on the film.
For Roseanna was shot on various picturesque locations in Italy, and cinematographer Henry Braham gives the film the glossy look of a postcard, and it will have many within the audience planning their next holiday even before they leave the cinema.
*** At Village, the Rivoli, Dendy Brighton from August 21.