Caterina in the Big City Directed by Paolo Virzí
Empire, opens June 3, Metro Twin
Junior high is often so terrible because it's a preview of adult life's internecine struggles for power. In Paolo Virzí's dark comedy, a Roman middle school presents in microcosm the ills afflicting Italian society. Newcomer Alice Teghil stars as Caterina, a teenage girl, who moves to Rome from the provinces with her sweet, ineffectual mother (Margherita Buy) and her father (Sergio Castellitto), an embittered accounting teacher who believes that in the capital his literary talents may finally get their due. On her first day bemused Caterina learns that her eighth-grade class is divided between the hippie daughters of radical-chic intellectuals and the spoiled brats of reactionary industrialists and politicians. Soon her father is trying to use her glamorous acquaintances for his own social climbing. Caterina adores him, but even she begins to notice something amiss. Pitch-perfect performances and a light-handed but razor-sharp script keep this satire brisk and biting.