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The Last Paradiso
Stream It Or Skip It
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The Last Paradiso (L’ultimo paradiso) is a period melodrama co-written by and starring Riccardo Scamarcio, who has an Italian Clooney thing going on, and has starred in a handful of Netflix films in the last couple years. (You may recognize him from playing a supporting cretin in John Wick: Chapter 2.) The film is ostensibly a BOATS flick (yes: Based On A True Story) even though there’s no subtitle saying as much, but Scamarcio and co-writer/director Rocco Ricciardulli plucked bits from provincial lore and turned it into this mid-century romantic drama about a smalltown Lothario and his attempt to not only rebel against the cruel mafia-don jerk running things, but also skadoink the man’s muy bellisimo daughter.
THE LAST PARADISO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Ciccio Paradiso (Scamarcio) is a married man with a young son who unashamedly dips his wick in many pots, if you know what I mean. His wife, Lucia (Valentina Cervi), knows what he’s up to. Hell, the whole town knows what he’s up to. Ciccio and Lucia stand in the church and he snacks on Communion wafers when she confronts him about his rampant infidelity, and he says he loves her, but loves many others, too: “For you, it’s a sin. For me, it’s not.” She kinda just shrugs. Maybe she needs to accept him for who he is? Maybe boys will just be boys? Maybe she’s more liberal than we thought? Who knows. But the women in this burg almost exclusively work in deference to the men, and those who’ve angered their husbands by getting a taste of Ciccio are likely drawn to him for his liberal, devil-may-care attitude.
Ciccio’s preferred babe-on-the-side is Bianca (Gaia Bermani Amaral). They have pork-happy picnics in the humble and lovely Italian countryside, nudge nudge wink. Her sister just tut-tuts and looks the other way. Bianca’s the lovely offspring of Cumpa Schettino (Antonio Gerardi), who employs all the locals in his wheat and olive fields.
He pays poorly. He has a taste for raping teenage girls out in the barn. But he gets away with everything, because we all know that HE WHO CONTROLS THE WHEAT AND OLIVES CONTROLS THE WORLD.
Ciccio is cocky, resilient. He takes it upon himself to rile the workers against Schettino, then stays out all night rolling in the hay with Bianca, quite literally, out in the barn, hopefully where the livestock don’t drop log too much. He’s a charismatic sort compared to the rest of the townsfolk, who seem content to toil endlessly and be dirt-poor and not indulge any animalian lust, for better or worse. Regardless, he sure seems to be crusin’ for a bruisin’ if he keeps riling up Schettino. Ciccio plans to R-U-N-N-O-F-T with Bianca, and maybe escape the oppressive conditions and meet up with his brother Antonio. And if you don’t expect this movie to make a bold narrative step right about now, well, you’d be wrong.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The Last Paradiso is kinda like Stealing Beauty or Under the Tuscan Sun but with more peasants and sonofabitchin’ olive lords.
Performance Worth Watching: Depth of character is a bit hard to come by here, but Lucia shows some unexpected complexity in her relative acceptance of Ciccio, thanks to Cervi not always adhering to boilerplate angry-wife-isms.
Memorable Dialogue: Ciccio gets poetic when describing Bianca: “She’s not just a woman.
That’s the halfway point, and if I were a total maniac with a brain ravaged by the poisons of bath salts and carrot cake Oreos, I’d say this turn of events is on par with Hitchcock killing off Janet Leigh in Psycho.
The rest of the movie is a hodgepodge of plot points, the story meandering hither and yon among long-kept secrets, baffling turns of events and displays of toxic masculinity. Also, a mustache which singlehandedly enlivens the proceedings by merely existing within the frame, worn by a new character whose impenetrable presence only serves to submerge most of the film’s emotional content beneath an unconvincing furrowed-brow expression and follicular hilarity. To be fair, the movie is hokey and messy but reasonably watchable and buoyed by an operatic sensibility contributing to its entertainment value, perhaps not in the dramatic manner intended, but effective nonetheless.
Our Call: SKIP IT. The Last Paradiso is reasonably enjoyable in the way its pokerfaced drama teeters into comedy, but its thin characters and haphazard plotting tip it beyond the realm of reasonable recommendation.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.