This film is unlike what you expect from a biopic, there is no abstruse birth,…
“There is also one of the most original and bizarrely happy deaths that I have ever seen in a film, one involving an awful lot of cream cakes.”
‘Loose Cannons’ is a comedy from Italy which is as light and frothy as the foam on a cappuccino and, ultimately, just as insubstantial. Any pleasure that you experience watching this film is, one imagines, likely to be short-lived. The plot revolves around the ridiculously wealthy and quite extensive Cantone family who have built their business empire, appropriately enough, on the manufacture of pasta.
Vicenoso (Ennio Fantastichini) the family patriarch is a traditionalist with some old-fashioned attitudes such as feeling the need to have both a wife and a mistress. He has reached the point in his life when he wants to hand over the reins to his two sons Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio) and Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi) which he plans to do at a grand gathering of the Cantone clan. Antonio has already spent the last few years helping out with the business but his brother has been away in Rome, supposedly studying for a business degree. What no one suspects, especially his testosterone- fuelled dad, is that Tommaso is actually gay, a fact that he has decided to reveal over dinner that evening.
When he gives a sneak preview of this news to Antonio, Tommaso is somewhat nonplussed to find himself trumped by his older brother who, before Tommaso can speak, informs the family that he himself is, in fact, a homosexual. The Cantones are thrown into shock whilst Antonio is thrown out of the house by his apoplectic father who promptly keels over with a heart attack. Vincenzo survives and having disowned Antonio now gives all his affection, not to mention responsibility for the business, to Tommaso.
His young son now faces a dilemma. Given the effect that Antonio’s news had on his father, should Tommaso risk causing another cardiac by letting on about his own sexuality or should he continue to play the dutiful son, producing the pasta and living a lie? Perhaps the arrival of some flamboyant friends from Rome may help to force his hand.
‘Loose Cannons’ is something of a curiosity really in the fact that it feels like it could have been made a good twenty or thirty years ago. Actually, it probably has been and with better results. Perhaps it is merely a cultural difference. No doubt, there are some families in Italy where the discovery of a gay son would still cause some consternation. You only have to look at the country’s frankly embarrassing prime minister to see that regressive ideas still hold some sway over there. But the farcical reactions that Antonio’s revelations cause seem, even for a comedy, way over the top.
Then there are the signifiers used in the film to demonstrate Tommaso’s homosexuality. For instance, the young man has not actually been studying business in Rome but literature and he now wants to be a writer rather than make linguini for a living. Because he has an artistic and creative side we are supposed to see this as an indicator of his being gay.
Not that this very broad and loud comedy is all that interested in mining laughs from believable situations. When Tommaso’s friends visit they are so outrageously camp as to make Graham Naughton look like Bruce Willis and yet hardly anyone in the family suspects them to be anything other than the most red-blooded of males. Tommaso’s sex- mad aunt even attempts a seduction of one of the poor boys. This makes a nice change for her as she is more used to nocturnal visits from her lovers who she later claims, fooling no one, were intruders attempting to burgle her.
How much you enjoy ‘Loose Cannons’ will largely depend on how you like your humour and whether you prefer to be gently tickled into laughter or beaten into submission. I prefer the subtle approach, so this film was not really for me. On the plus side, ‘Loose Cannons’ is very attractive and glamorous, as are many of the cast, and the musical score is lively and luxuriant providing the perfect accompaniment to the film’s frenetic events.
‘Loose Cannons’ starts and ends with a subplot which seems a lot more interesting than the rest of the story involving the lost love of Tommaso’s grandmother. This provides Tommaso with a potential solution to his dilemma and the film with a moving coda. There is also one of the most original and bizarrely happy deaths that I have ever seen in a film, one involving an awful lot of cream cakes. ‘Loose Cannons’ will not linger long in my cinematic recollections but at least that one scene alone will be hard to forget.