Stress Becomes Her: Actress Conquers Middlebrow Angst

Italian for beginners: Morante (right)
photo: Roadside Attractions

Among the many pleasures of watching Italian actress Laura Morante is a certain astringency that seizes her face in moments of stress—her mouth contracts into a sour pucker, her cheekbones harden into switchblades, and her eyes ping-pong from corner to corner. Such an instance of fierce defensiveness comes early in Remember Me, My Love, when Morante's homemaker awaits a phone call that could free her from a bourgeois existence, or sentence her to an eternity with her unfaithful husband (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) and two college-age kids. Hardly an original scenario, but Morante (The Son's Room) brilliantly undermines the movie's middlebrow amiability, providing the story with a frazzled and slightly unstable center of gravity.

As in director Gabriele Muccino's previous angst opera The Last Kiss, Remember Me crosscuts its way through an ensemble: Dad gets reacquainted with an old flame (Monica Bellucci); son Paolo and daughter Valentina embark on separate but equally fumbling sex odysseys; and Morante's matriarch tentatively resumes an aborted stage career. "We're the simulacrum of the petite bourgeoisie," notes one character, and indeed, this sentimental movie is the simulacrum of an existential family drama. But the 48-year-old Morante is the real thing; like Deneuve, Rampling, and Huppert, she graces middle age with both intelligence and a rumpled, lived-in sex appeal.

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