Mid-August Lunch

Movie review: A light 'Mid-August Lunch'

Gianni Di Gregorio is the writer, director and star of
Gianni Di Gregorio is the writer, director and star of "Mid-August Lunch." (Zeitgeist Films)
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By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 23, 2010

If "Mid-August Lunch" were a meal instead of a movie, it would be something light and quick, but not entirely unsatisfying. A green salad with a couple pieces of grilled shrimp on top, say.

It's tasty enough, and probably good for you, but at 73 minutes, the film is hardly a very filling entree.

Written and directed by its star, Gianni Di Gregorio, the Italian film tells the story of an unmarried middle-aged man, also named Gianni, who lives with and cares for his elderly, widowed mother (Valeria De Franciscis) in Rome. When money problems force him to take in three more old ladies (Marina Cacciotti, Maria Cal? and Grazia Cesarini Sforza) for a summer holiday, the stage is set for some gently comic situations. One lactose-intolerant guest gets into the macaroni casserole, which is dripping with melted cheese. Another wanders off to a nearby nightclub without telling anyone. And that's after having a hissy fit over not getting to watch her TV program.

None of this is especially dramatic, but it's all very stressful -- in an amusing way -- to Di Gregorio's character, who looks like an Italian Jerry Orbach: wry, world-weary and wise. Gianni just keeps on keeping on, cooking gourmet meals for the women while tossing back glass after glass of white wine.

This is one of those movies where the food and drink on screen look good enough to eat.

That's not surprising, considering its title. Set during the lead-up to Ferragosto, an Italian holiday observed on Aug. 15, "Mid-August Lunch" culminates in an afternoon meal of fish, potatoes and sparkling wine that Gianni prepares for his mother and the three guests. As so often happens in real life, it isn't until all the bickering senior citizens have gathered around the table that they realize just how important, in a short time, each one has become to the others.

In this movie about breaking bread together, the message -- that friendship is as nourishing as food -- is as simple as the menu.

** Unrated. At Landmark's E Street Cinema. Contains enthusiastic smoking and drinking. In Italian with English subtitles. 73 minutes.

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