The Story of Boys and Girls
1991 Directed by Pupi Avati. Starring Davide Bechini, Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere, Felice Andreasi, Alessadro Haber.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 22, 1991
The Story of Boys and Girls would love nothing so much as to be a Jean Renoir movie. Or perhaps an intergenerational, societal panorama by Louis Malle. Set in 1936 Italy, the movie has that period flavor of peak Renoir. Its other unspoken reference point is Babette's Feast. The story centers around a large multi-coursed betrothal dinner shared by the families of a perspective bride and groom. He is a city boy who comes from an aristocratic family that disapproves of his impending marriage to this country maiden. She comes from this large and blustery family which has been hunting and cooking for days in preparation for this engagement feast. The first part of the movie is spent introducing us to this busy constellation of characters, establishing their relationships to each other and their particular situations. At first it's a swirl of faces and connections. But gradually they all fall into place. The problem is that there's so many of them that there's only time to grant each of them just one or two salient character traits and that's all we ever get to know about them. Amidst petty scandals, surprises, quarrels and general disorder, the bride's family manages to pull an impressive feast together. But like the feast itself, this movie is just too much. It all flits past in bite-sized morsels but never attains that complexity of flavors and textures that comprise one well-prepared dish. The background of fascist Italy is barely brought into the movie's consciousness. It consistently misses the boat when faced with opportunities to weave this insular family portrait into a larger social fabric. The Story of Boys and Girls aspires to become delicate tapestry. What it achieves is more like a haphazard crazy quilt.