Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chasing Destiny All The Way To Italy

Some links before we get ourselves started today. Norma posted before the weekend on social media. Today she posted about Comicon. Yesterday being a Sunday, we had a Snippet Sunday post. Mark took a look at the subject of passwords. AngryParsnip had her weekly Square Dog Friday and a food blog as well. Krisztina had this pic of the week at her page. The Happy Whisk had a Red Shirt Sunday. Eve talked about the summer at her blog. Maria is releasing a new book this week. Shelly posted about current events. And Lorelei had an excerpt at her blog.

Today I'm doing a movie review...

"Why couldn't we have arranged marriages in America?" ~ Faith
"Yeah, at least you could spend the rest of your life blaming your parents instead of yourself." ~ Kate

The 1994 film Only You is a romantic comedy by director Norman Jewison, set largely in the overly romantic Italian cities and countryside. It's a character study that plays around with the ideas of love and destiny, and has a terrific cast that just draws you in. 

We first meet Faith as an eleven year old playing with a ouija board with her brother Larry, and learning that the man she's destined to love is named Damon Bradley. A couple of years later, a fortune teller tells her again that Damon Bradley will be her future husband. The girl is romantic by nature, and takes these predictions very seriously.

Flash forward a few more years, and Faith (Marisa Tomei) is now a teacher. She's engaged to a rather dull podiatrist named Dwayne. She still has that romantic streak about her, but she's seemed to given up on that whole concept of marrying the elusive Damon Bradley. Her best friend Kate (Bonnie Hunt) is married to her brother (Fisher Stevens), and the marriage isn't in the best of shape; Larry takes his wife for granted.

Faith is in the process of trying on a wedding dress- her fiance's mother's dress- at home when she gets a call from one of Dwayne's old classmates offering congratulations on the impending nuptials and regrets that he won't be there, as he's on his way to Italy. She catches his name before he hangs up- Damon Bradley.

On impulse Faith runs to the airport to try to catch the elusive man of her destiny. Further impulse drives her to decide to go to Italy and find him. Kate, bothered by the state of her marriage and deciding her sister-in-law needs someone sensible to keep an eye on her, decides to come with her. The pair dash across the ocean, into the much too romantic Italian countryside (everything looks sundrenched), and accompanied by romantic strings of film score and the occasional opera selection, work to find Mr. Bradley. This at first leads them to Giovanni (Joaquim De Almeida), an Italian businessman who sees something he likes in Kate. And then a passing encounter with a young American (Robert Downey Jr.) on the streets of Rome... who says he's Damon Bradley.

The story is by Diane Drake, evoking both the sense of place, Italy, with the tradition of film romances that were set in that country, such as Roman Holiday. The story explores these characters, giving them depth and subtle nuances that flesh them out in turn. It paces itself nicely, giving us a chance to take in the scenery when needed, but never feeling slow. The story's very much a fantasy, and yet doesn't feel forced. Best of all, there's no cynicism in the leads. Norman Jewison has an impressive track record as a director, giving us films such as In The Heat Of The Night, The Hurricane, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Cincinnati Kid during his illustrious career. He films in a style that respects the romantic sensibilities of the story, and it certainly comes through that way. He's also mindful of the humour- something that comes across in Bonnie Hunt's character throughout. The casting choices made here were ideal, all around. One other element of romance: the film score by Rachel Portman is inspired, very Italian in its tone, and just as romantic as you'd expect. 

The cast suits their roles. Fisher Stevens turns up here and there as Larry, and he's often played the role of sidekick or wiseguy. Here he's a husband who's taken his wife for granted, and it shows early on. Only when he realizes that she's gone off to Italy does he wake up and decide to be a better guy. There's an element of the wiseguy in his performance, but his character's shift in priorities feels fluid as the story goes along. Billy Zane (Titanic) turns up along the way as a charming rogue and scoundrel; we first meet him as he's getting out of a pool and looking like a bronzed god out of mythology. He's obviously eye candy for the ladies. He's pretty self absorbed, we soon discover, and a rake. Zane plays these qualities of the character, and yet still gives us a great laugh while sitting with Downey and De Almeida- and delivering a well placed elbow where it can do some damage.

De Almeida has often played villains in roles on this side of the Atlantic, in television or films like Desperado, Clear And Present Danger, and 24. It is a refreshing change to see him play a sympathetic, likable character. Giovanni is attracted to Kate, shows her the romantic side of Italy, and yet respects her feelings. He doesn't push with her. It's a stark contrast to villainous roles, watching him play a charming, kind man. Bonnie Hunt gets some of the best lines in the film; her Kate is sensible by nature, yet has a sarcastic side, expressing it through retorts and commentary. She's hiding her disappointment in the state of her marriage behind that sarcasm, and feels appreciated by the attention of Giovanni- yet doesn't cross a line with him either. 

Downey is as charming as you'd expect out of the actor, who went on to both highs and lows in his life and career before finding the stability and success he needed. This role's a good one for him. His character is infatuated straight off the bat; we sense that he feels the connection before Faith does. And it leads him to some poorly thought out decisions along the way- love leads him to talk before he thinks, it seems. Yet we like him regardless. There's no sense of a jaded cynic in the character.

The film belongs to Tomei, who had won a Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny previously. She plays Faith as having a deep romantic streak, one that engages her into a very impulsive trip. She's someone we can like, a sympathetic protagonist, and Tomei gives her role a comic touch in the way she relates to other people. Yes, Faith feels lost in the stars at times, but that's a good place to get lost in. She has great chemistry in this with Downey, and it comes across every time they share the screen.

Only You is one of those bubbly fantasies that takes the audience on a whirlwind tour of Venice, Rome, and beyond, telling a Cinderella story of love and fate. It plays to the romantic in us- if you go through life with a permanent scowl on your face, you'll have problems with this- and features a splendid cast in a gorgeous locale. Its leading characters feel believable together, banter and flirt in the right way, and have us rooting for them. And with a dash of good humour here and there, it results in an entertaining film. While perhaps overdosing on a bit of sugar, but that's not a bad thing, right?


  1. I just adore this movie, every moment of this movie. And as much as I love Tommei and Downey together (love his shoe talk especially at the airport) The parts that are so special to me are Bonnie Hunts and De Almeida who seem to be caught up in all the wonderment and just go along with it.

    Great review !
    cheers, parsnip

  2. I can't believe I haven't watched this one. I love Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. I'm kicking myself!!

    I'm a sucker for romances. :)

  3. I've got to see this! I can't believe I missed it! RDJ, Marissa Tomei, Italy and romance...that's like the perfect chemical combination!

  4. I remember this one and liked it a lot. Great review and yes, Marisa Tomei did a wonderful job with this movie and Italy is always beautiful.

  5. One of my faves! If there are people who haven't seen it yet, reading this review will having them flocking to Netflix.

  6. @Parsnip: thank you!

    @Diane: you must remedy that post haste!

    @Norma: catch it soon and let me know what you think.

    @Eve: I found the film irresistable.

    @GK: I should hope so!

  7. I remember this movie! Great review!

  8. What a cast! I'm going to have to catch this one.

  9. Great review. I hadn't heard of this movie.

  10. Thank you! I've seen a number of similar movies but somehow missed this. I shall endeavor to find a copy asap! Great review, as usual!

  11. Aw...yes. I remember this movie. Good review. Good movie.

  12. @Kelly: you should check it out!

    @Cheryl: thank you!

    @Mark: most definitely.

    @Auden: thanks.

    @Lowell: thank you!

    @Shelly: I quite enjoyed it.

  13. I've never seen this movie. By gosh they all look so young. Thanks for the shout out.

  14. I loved this movie. The central romance is gorgeous, with just the right amount of tension and hope. And Bonnie Hunt is downright brilliant.

    The only line I remember is when Fisher Stevens, sitting on a roof of all places, takes a phone call, listens for a moment, then says in his Chicago accent, "Itly? My wife's gone to Itly?"

    Thanks for the review and the photos, William.

  15. I wonder how I missed this . It sounds like one I would like. Thanks for doing the review. I know it takes a lot of time.


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