Friday, June 05, 2009

[Italian Film Fest] A Whole Life Ahead (Tutta La Vita Davanti)


Here's the pragmatic approach that parents tell their children here - study the sciences because that will provide you a job. For Marta (Isabella Ragonese), even a top degree with honours in Philosophy fails to land her a permanent job, drawing some sharp contrast against peers who have dropped out of college, but steadily climbing the career ladder. The film has intent to examine the plight of permanent-temporary workers, you know, those who are under temporary contracts, but have to perform tasks and take on responsibilities just as how a regular staff would, but minus the staff perks.

I suppose companies take this approach with an eye wary on their bottom line, and sees this staffing strategy as something that's cost effective, virtually eliminating benefits from the payroll. The film might have been effective, with the introduction of unionist Giorgio (Valeno Mastandrea) who tries to understand the plight and conditions in the fictitious company Multiple (manufacturing who knows what product), but somehow lost its mission objectives midway because of a complication in matters of the heart, thereby relegating its own subplot.

This film is about the surreal journey of Marta as she tries her best to seek out a job, believing that her academic qualifications would open door. Contrary to her beliefs of course, Fate comes into play to introduce her to a single mom Sonia (Micaela Romazzotti) who works as a tele-marketer for Multiple, and recruits her into this really strange company with a very wide male-female division of the sexes, and feel-good ra-ra practices such as singing motivational songs at the start of each shift, and the receiving of cosmetic, encouraging SMSes in the morning everyday.

In other words, they operate much like a cult group, where performers get rewarded with dubious prizes, and laggards in the company get shipped out unceremoniously, with little dignity. Such is the sweat shop that Marta finds herself in, if not for her intellectual ability in internalizing the process in double quick time, and innovating in her job so as to perform with moderate inputs. For those who have worked in companies, or amongst peers who require you to jump, sing, shout, dance out loud in celebration of your employment or to serve as a mental prep booster before you commence each day, this film would definitely ring a bell.

And while the narrative might seem all over the place, it is precisely how director Paolo Virzi coaxes a coherent and at times zany story out of the multiple events, and myriad of characters. There's Daniela (Sabrina Ferilli) the floor supervisor who's a control freak, and harbours the hots for CEO Claudio (Massimo Ghini) who on the surface is the typical all-caring boss with a finger on the company's pulse. Then there's the romantic knot that Marta inadvertently gets herself into, and fellow sales partner Lucio 2 (Elio Germano) who preps himself almost all the time to think that he's the best of the best.

Throw in plenty of song and dance, self-reflection moments, gratuitous sex and nudity, changing relationships, and you have a film that tries too hard to cover a wide spectrum of ideas, but end up missing the bullseye more often than not. The film has its moments, but nothing too memorable besides those song and dance numbers that make the Beach Boys and some folk songs hip again.

A Whole Life Ahead screens at The Picturehouse on 9 June Tuesday at 915pm. Tickets are on sale now.

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