Mid-August Lunch

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4 out of 5 stars
Mid-August Lunch

Food porn has been an art-house staple since Babette’s Feast, but despite the title, Gomorrah screenwriter Gianni Di Gregorio’s directorial debut forgoes close-ups of exotic dishes in favor of serving a delectably light comedy. A middle-aged schlub living with his 93-year-old mother, Gianni (Di Gregorio) agrees, for financial reasons, to put up three other older ladies during a summer holiday. Thankfully, the actor-director prepares this potential recipe for hokeyness with all-natural ingredients, casting four of the feistiest biddies he could find, who are all the more endearing for being unadorned.

Di Gregorio turns his loser into someone far more complex than your typical Apatovian manchild, using his character’s nonstop wine sipping and slouch-shouldered puttering around his unwanted harem to convey a subtle self-hatred: It’s like watching John Cassavetes trapped in a mega-episode of The Golden Girls. Yet as a director, he has a keen ability to find sympathy in all of his characters and the socially awkward situation they share. Throw in the film’s unmistakable ear for the cajoling rhythms of geriatric Italian conversation—you’ll almost want to ignore the subtitles and just listen to the music of these elderly women’s voices—and you have the makings of a minor yet mouthwatering cinematic feast.—Kevin B. Lee

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