Movie review: Ferrari’s fake accents force some bad turns, but Driver saves the lines

Movie review: Ferrari

Director Michael Mann demonstrates a passion for Italian engineering and mid-century aesthetics in this big-budget biopic that seeks to celebrate the power and the pistons of the masculine experience.

Ferrari

3/5

Starring: Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Gabriel Leone

Directed by: Michael Mann

Written by: Troy Kennedy Martin, Brock Yates

Running time: 2 hrs 4 mins

Rating: Restricted

Opens in theatres December 25, 2023

By Katherine Monk

What?? Super Mario didn’t get an Italian accent because the producers thought it would be culturally disrespectful. But Michael Mann forces the entire cast to go full fake Bologna in Ferrari?

What on earth did the director of such masculine epics as Heat and Collateral hope to gain by filling his actors’ mouths with such painful imitations of a Latin-esque lilt? If it was a sense of authenticity, he was in deep denial about the ability of his American cast to approximate anything more than a sideshow of cultural stereotype.

If it was a desire to see everyone in the audience leave speaking in a fake Italian accent and a latent urge to drive a classic Ferrari racing car, he should give himself a pat on the back — then apologize to the Italian nation for butchering one of the most beautiful languages on the planet.

What on earth did the director of such masculine epics as Heat and Collateral hope to gain by filling his actors’ mouths with such painful imitations of a Latin-esque lilt?

If you think this is just nitpicking in the face of Hollywood’s long tradition of forced fake inflections, where German and Russian accents have been the backstay of villain cliche for decades, you’re partly right. I am a little too focused on the aural assault perpetrated by Mann and carried out by the well-meaning, and undeniably talented, cast.

To be fair, the story is much bigger than the almost unlistenable dialogue. Seeking to showcase the beauty and backstory of what is, arguably, the world’s prettiest racing machine, Ferrari tells the story of Enzo Ferrari, a flawed man who sought to make a perfect car.

Addicted to going fast and pushing the envelope of conventional engineering, we first lay eyes on the charismatic protagonist in the opening frames: A black and white recreation of the early days of automotive racing, with Enzo at the wheel, wearing goggles and a competitive grin.

Played by Adam Driver, the actor with the perfect name and commanding screen presence the role required, the central character in this biopic is every bit as big and charismatic as he needed to be. The real question is whether he’ll be sympathetic, because Ferrari was no saint. In fact, not even his mother thought he was a good guy. “The wrong son died,” she confides to her caregiver when speaking of Enzo’s older brother who died in the Great War.

Unapologetically selfish and convinced of his self-aggrandizing purpose, Enzo doesn’t just screw around with the women of Modena, he’s sired an alternate family that he hides in the countryside, away from the prying eyes of his wife and business partner, Laura (Penelope Cruz).

Lapses in spousal loyalty are never admirable, but they are entirely human, and if there’s one thing that saves Ferrari from its ear-splitting accents and somnambulant screenplay, it’s the palpable conflict tearing up the heart and soul of our central character.

Adam Driver takes the fake stuff off the page, and somehow turns in an emotionally complex, and altogether believable voyage as a man driven by ambition and expectation. The accent is always painful, and sits as a speed bump in every scene, but Driver hugs the corners of Enzo’s emotional twists and turns, and finds a clean, human line through the historical details and divine production design.

Mann was clearly obsessed with the era, ensuring everything from the colour palette to the vintage cars were faithfully recreated. He re-enacts significant contests that defined the dynamic between Italian auto makers and their American counterparts. He also includes the gory tragedies that continue to stain the annals of autosport with the blood of dead drivers.

Adam Driver takes the fake stuff off the page, and somehow turns in an emotionally complex, and altogether believable voyage as a man driven by ambition and expectation. The accent is always painful, and sits as a speed bump in every scene, but Driver hugs the corners of Enzo’s emotional twists and turns, and finds a clean, human line through the historical details and divine production design.

One might call it a “fatal attraction” or a “deadly passion,” but the risk to life and limb sits at the wheel of this ambitious drama as Mann strives to understand Ferrari’s emotional engine, and find forgiveness for his many human sins.

It’s a creative dilemma for anyone who bothers to study the nature of genius: Does the beauty of an artefact forgive the moral failures of the person who made it? Every time I think of Woody Allen, I have to reconcile this question, and I have yet to arrive at a satisfying answer.
Ferrari leaves me with a full tank of similar questions, because there’s absolutely no doubt that Ferraris are some of the most beautiful racing machines ever made. Enzo, on the other hand, feels like just another Elon, Woody or Rupert: an egotist who uses and abuses anything in his path to win the race.

Because Adam Driver is able to transcend the mediocre writing, the lazy justification of adultery as wartime necessity, and a creepy desire to deliver gratuitous gore on a silver platter, Ferrari works as a movie because it has emotional ballast through Driver’s performance.

Without him and Cruz, who delivers a truly astonishing 60 seconds of screen time in the family mortuary, Ferrari would have been little more than a forced, mechanical exercise seeking to celebrate the big pistons and black exhaust of the masculine experience.

 

THE EX-PRESS, December 25, 2023

-30-

Review: Ferrari

User Rating

3 (6 Votes)

Summary

3Score

Adam Driver takes the fake stuff off the page, and somehow turns in an emotionally complex, and altogether believable voyage as a man driven by ambition and expectation. The accent is always painful, and sits as a speed bump in every scene, but Driver hugs the corners of Enzo’s emotional twists and turns, and finds a clean, human line through the historical details and divine production design. -- Katherine Monk

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