Italian For Beginners DVD Review

Cover Art & Packaging: 10/10
A very nice bit of cover art this time around for Miramax. I applaud anything that is catchy and doesn’t fall into the “show the stars” syndrome. Italian for Beginners might not be what the box leads you to believe…. it’s better. It’s not a raucous comedy or a raunchy sexy movie, it’s classy and fun, like the cover.

Extras & Features: 1/10
This one’s easy.. there are none. The cover might be different from your standard Miramax fare, but not the Extras department. Too bad, this movie is sooooo good I would LOVE to know more about it and the makers. Alas, Miramax keeps those things private and away from prying eyes.

Movie: 10/10
I had NO idea what this movie was about. I had seen one trailer a long time ago. I have to say I am impressed. A web of people and their lives criss-crossing with intermingled stories of death, love, friendship, sadness and passion. A study class for Italian brings them together one by one and is the foundation they all need to find what was missing in their lives.

A well written story with excellent dialogue, wonderful performances and a kind of humor that gives it that quality edge. We are introduced to the characters in a well paced, delicate yet forward manner that gets you into their stories right away. Each with their own personal challenges and hurdles to get over, they persevere and conquer those all-to-human demands.

One woman struggles with being clumsy and has a hard time with life, her father, absent mother and loneliness. Another is confident, but her mother is ill, difficult and has a secret she is not telling anyone.

Two men, one kind, meek, a gentleman. The other a brash, obnoxious orphan who cares little for other people’s feelings until he meets a woman who changes all of that.

These are real, honest characters who draw you in with affection and genuine heartfelt emotions that touch anyone who has ever suffered being on their own, loss or feeling like an outsider.

This is one of those rare movies that has so many elements outside the “norm” of what we are used to seeing in mainstream Hollywood productions it’s a real surprise and a must see for anyone who loves and appreciates film as a storytelling medium. Keep in mind this is a movie that comes from Denmark. You probably haven’t seen any films that are in Danish, but it’s time to expand your horizons. Not only do you get to hear one lovely language, you get the bonus of Italian here and there. If subtitles are not daunting for you, and how could they be, rent this DVD as soon as you have a quiet hour and a half to enjoy it.

At first you might fell a bit disoriented by the video taped feel of the film. It’s not standard old fashioned film stock. This film has the flavor of an independent student film that has every quality of a huge studio production. The writing is brilliant, the cast is charming and their performances are top notch. I hope to see this cast again and again in other films by this director or in any work that I can get my hands on from Denmark.

I have learned in the past couple of years that international movies are an amazing experience. From Run Lola Run to Amelie to The Son’s Room every time I take the leap to give a new cultural perspective of the world a’s pays off big time. These have become some of my favorite movies of all time.

I highly recommend this film for anyone who loves movies like Magnolia, Royal Tenenbaum’s, Boogie Nights,  and Born Romantic and other’s that pull together a tangled web of people who all have a reason to cross paths.

I wish I knew if the actors and actresses in this film are popular performers in their native Denmark. I would love to see more of them. If there are any Danish readers who are laughing at me because these people are like the Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, John Travolta and Meg Ryan of Denmark, please contact me so I can be properly humiliated.  Hopefully this film opens the doors to our Danish filmmaking friends to bring more movies to the rest of the world.

Value: 8/10
I’m always disappointed with a DVD that has no extras or featured background info on the making of a film. This usually drops my score a bit. The price is a steady $20-$21 around the web and for that a few extras would have been nice. I imagine that in film shops outside the normal Blockbusters and Hastings arena will have a few copies of this charming fare and you might be able to get it cheaper, but that’s not a promise. I’m sure there is an inherent added distribution problem for films like Italian for Beginners and the low number of DVD’s produced hikes the price up a bit. I still say, if you love film and are a fan of seriously interesting characters..this one is the one you need to seek out for your collection.

Over All: 9/10
I’m loving this international expedition of films. It takes different perspectives of the same kinds of human dramas we see in the less interesting movies all the time, and gives new life to the filmmaker’s ability to bring us these stories in different artistic ways. Using film as an art form seems to be more of an Outside-Hollywood thing, but that’s ok as long as there’s DVD we can bring any kind of film right to us, we don’t have to settle for the latest box office choices anymore.

Italian for Beginners is lovely, I say give it a rental at the least and if you are feeling extra daring, order the DVD. If for no other reason, to say you have a Danish/Italian movie in your collection. Not many people you know can say that!! 🙂

Yes the lack of extras is a big disappointment, but the film and the quality of the picture, sound and excellent cover overpower the lack of extras for me..The end score is not the average of all the scores this time because I can’t bring myself to give this DVD less than an 8 for the extremely high quality of the film. Argue with me if you will…I stand my ground. Sometimes the film outweighs the other elements of a DVD presentation, this one especially.

Overall Score 9/10