Bread And Tulips Movie Review
The story concerns the aforementioned housewife, Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta) who accidentally becomes separated from her immediate family while on vacation. Instead of waiting for a ride home, Rosalba opts not to go home to her Italian town, but to instead hitchhike to Venice. Upon arriving, she tells her self-centered husband, Mimmo (an excellent Antonio Catania) that she'll be home in a few days.
Of course, that doesn't happen, as Rosalba quickly gains a level of independence that has been unattainable in her past life of scrubbing floors and buying groceries. In what seems like days, she moves in with lonely, suicidal waiter Fernando (Bruno Ganz), gets a job as a florist, learns the accordion, and befriends her neighbor -- a wacky holistic masseuse named Grazia (Marina Massironi). Rosalba, who is first seen wearing a gaudy stretch pants outfit, starts wearing sexy dresses and getting closer to Fernando.
I can think of at least five other (American) movies (including Fried Green Tomatoes and An Unmarried Woman) that are more than similar to Bread and Tulips. But Maglietta and Ganz, who act with restraint and care, help Bread and Tulips from becoming a tired retread. Ganz plays the suicidal waiter role with a solemn, sometimes playful dignity that is a joy to watch, while Maglietta never overreacts to her growing comfort with the outside world. Throughout the movie, Maglietta has an easygoing, confident demeanor, which makes it very easy to root for her and her growing attraction for Ganz's character. The gorgeous scenery of moonlit town squares and sparkling rivers provides a perfect love story backdrop -- you just might want to ask the attractive stranger in the seat behind you for coffee after the lights come up.
Director and co-writer Silvio Soldini must get credit for sprinkling the movie with effective goofy humor. The cheap Mimmo, desperate to find his wife (after all, he needs his shirts ironed and his mistress won't do it), hires a job applicant (Giuseppe Battiston) at his bathroom supply firm to do the job. The reason? Mimmo discovers that the prospective plumber loves detective stories. The novice detective's various misfortunes, including him saying goodbye to his weepy mother, are very funny.
Unfortunately, there are flaws that somewhat spoil Bread and Tulips' cheery tone. Rosalba is bothered by several surreal dreams during her time in Venice, which bring the movie to a halt. It's like putting a gunfight in a Nora Ephron movie. Several details in Fernando's life also never get proper closure, including his suicidal tendencies. Early in the movie, he nearly hangs himself before Rosalba knocks on his apartment door. After that, Fernando's step towards death is never made reference to, probably because Soldini wanted to include a lukewarm, underdeveloped subplot about Fernando's stormy past. It seems more like a desperate attempt to pump up the drama in a plot that doesn't need any.
But there aren't a lot of overwhelming negatives in Bread and Tulips. The movie is fun and romantic, with beautiful scenery and characters whose lives we'd like to live if we had the nerve... or if our passports weren't missing.
Aka Pane e tulipani.
Well, they got cigars, booze, and tulips. Close enough.