Movie Review: Stylish mystery and something more serious

The Italian film’s sleek exteriors and accomplished acting make its social commentary even better.

“Human Capital” movie (photo credit: PR)
“Human Capital” movie
(photo credit: PR)
“Human Capital”
Directed by Paolo Virzi
Written by Virzi, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo
111 minutes
Hebrew title: Hon Anoshi
In Italian, check with theaters for subtitle information
Paolo Virzi’s “Human Capital” is a dark movie that looks at two families whose destinies are inextricably linked by secrets and deception. It’s told from the points of view of different characters, all of whom have something to hide. It’s a gripping film, which mixes a mystery with social commentary about the nouveau riche and those who aspire to join them.
The film is set in the wealthy suburbs near Milan, and it starts out with a prologue in which a cyclist on his way home at night is hit and run off the road by someone driving a van that doesn’t stop.
The first chapter (the movie is based on the American novel by Stephen Amidon, and it is divided into chapters) is told from the point of view of Dino (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), a likable schnook whose teenage daughter, Serena (Matilde Gioli), is dating Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli), the son of wealthy hedgefund director Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni). Dino, who runs a small real-estate firm out of a storefront, brings Serena to the Bernaschi home, and is dazzled by all that he sees. It’s no wonder. The Bernaschi home looks like a kind of enchanted castle. Giovanni, who is about to play tennis with some cronies and needs a fourth partner, asks Dino to join them.
Casually, Giovanni mentions to Dino that it takes a half-million euros to buy into his hedge fund, and Dino, assuming he will be set for life and desperate for Giovanni to see him as an equal, says that he would like to invest in it, pretending he has this much money. But Dino has to put up his business as a collateral and refinance his house in order to join the fund, against his accountant’s advice. Dino wants to get his hands on the high returns Giovanni promises, as well as to move in the circles that this wealth will give him access to, and he ignores the accountant’s warnings. He doesn’t discuss transaction with his pregnant second wife, Roberta (Valeria Golino, who played Tom Cruise’s girlfriend in “Rain Man”). To say that the investment doesn’t pan out the way he thought it would is an understatement, but although we can see this coming quite clearly, he can’t.
The second chapter is told from the point of view of Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who won the Best Actress Award at the Tribeca Film Festival), Giovanni’s wife. Beautiful and insecure, she is a former actress and current trophy wife who is no longer comfortable in her role.
Constantly exercising and shopping, as a good trophy wife should, she feels lonely and isolated. Giovanni never confides in her anymore about what he is doing, but she senses he is under pressure. On one of her jaunts around the city with her driver, she notices an abandoned theater set to be destroyed and convinces Giovanni to buy and renovate it. She gets together a group of local cultural officials who are meant to help her decide what kind of plays should be produced there, and she starts an affair with a young professor. But her carefully constructed world starts to fall apart when Giovanni’s business collapses and when Massimiliano is implicated as the culprit in the hitand- run.
The final chapter is told by Serena.
We learn that her relationship with Massimiliano is much briefer and less important to her than we thought.
She simply ignores the Bernaschi wealth. When she meets another boy, Luca (Giovanni Anzaldo), who is a patient of her stepmother, Roberta, a therapist who works with troubled teens, she is intrigued by him. Luca is an artist from a working-class background who has gotten involved with drugs, but she isn’t sure how deeply involved he is in drugs. In any case, she is drawn to his sensitivity, which coexists with a slightly feral quality.
All the strands come together in Serena’s chapter, as the mystery unravels.
Although the movie is set in Italy, it could take place in any country that has experienced economic uncertainty lately. Its stylish exteriors and accomplished acting make its social commentary just that more entertaining.