The Wine Of Summer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Wine Of Summer
"Pataky gives a stand-out performance that really deserves better."

What makes a good actor? Before seeing someone actually do their thing, what most casting directors look for are people who are relaxed, at ease with themselves and unselfconscious. James (Ethan Peck, son of the late Gregory) is pretty much the polar opposite of that. His acting teacher (played by Marcia Gay Harden) recognises the problem, but one does wonder how much he's paying to have her persist in trying to fix it. When he's simply unable to connect with a monologue written by playwright Carlo Lucchesi, he decides to go to Spain to clear his head - and there, in the first of many contrived coincidences, meets the playwright himself.

Carlo (Bob Wells) seems to see through James' pretensions from the outset, yet inexplicably invites him to stay at his home, where the young man proceeds to insult everybody he meets (especially Carlo's young girlfriend Veronica, played by Elsa Pataky) as well as ham-fistedly trying to intervene in their private lives. Played with sufficient insight, this might be the stuff of a successful black comedy. As it is, it's just grim. As James sulks about the girlfriend back home who left him and who he hopes to win back, it's difficult to imagine why she might have wanted to be with him in the first place.

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The main problem with this film is that, whilst failing to provide James with any meaningful character arc, it's so self-conscious itself that it has no hope of getting under the skin of its characters. It feels like a US attempt to make a European film, imitating form without appreciating the value of substance. Pataky gives a stand-out performance that really deserves better, but her character is summarily dismissed once she becomes surplus to the plot. Wells is adequate but plays it by the numbers. There's a strong turn from the delectable Sonia Braga as the inevitable muse (it's always worrying when writers assume other writers can't be drawing on imagination), but none of this can save a film that simply doesn't know where it's going. If it's the journey that's the point, the journey needs to take us along a road less well travelled.

Prettily shot but ultimately empty, The Wine Of Summer is an unfortunate choice for Peck, who is clearly a better actor than his character but doesn't get much chance to show it. It struggles to find a voice of its own or to get viewers sufficiently invested in what it posits as a grand romance. The result is something more like a Hallmark greeting card, with about the same capacity for holding the viewer's attention.

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2015
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A frustrated would-be actor seeks inspiration in Spain and becomes entangled in the life of the man whose play has thwarted him.

Director: Maria Matteoli

Writer: Maria Matteoli

Starring: Ethan Peck, Elsa Pataky, Bob Wells, Kelsey Asbille, Sonia Braga, Marcia Gay Harden

Year: 2013

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US


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