‘There’s more dignity in being rejected by someone out of my league,’ says Marta (Ludovica Francesconi), a bright young Italian woman desperate for romance but struggling with worsening cystic fibrosis. Standard treatments are failing her, and she is gradually coming to terms with the idea that she may not have much longer to live. Still, she sets her sights high: not content with settling for an ordinary boyfriend she pursues the rich, handsome university student Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio).
There is a strong sense in the opening half-hour of Out of My League (2020) that it is trying much too hard. This Italian romantic comedy is juggling quite a lot of non-standard elements for its genre, and it is clear that director Alice Fillipi has artistic aspirations beyond the run-of-the-mill crowd pleaser. There is more than a hint of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie about it, not simply with its colourful palette and sentimental-sweet emotional core but also with how its protagonist is presented. Marta has plenty in her life to be miserable about – orphaned as a child, terminally ill, and unlucky in love – yet no matter what happens the outlook always swings around to the upbeat and hopeful.
Marta is not alone – she lives in her spacious inherited apartment with childhood friends Jacopo (Jozef Gjura) and Federica (Gaja Masciale), who are both gay yet trying for a baby together. They operate as a close and intimate family unit, accompanying Marta on medical appointments and hospital visits and consoling her when she is down. In the film’s opening act at least they are alarmingly superficial. They largely lack lives and goals of their own, but simply exist to make the protagonist’s life an easier one and to support her seemingly Quixotic quest to date Arturo.
Arturo is a sexy, rich, and attractive man who comes from a very rich and clearly very powerful family, and does not seem interested in Marta at all. Her pursuit of him absolutely crosses the line into active stalking, and while that can inspire a certain kind of comedy it does not match the apparent romantic tone at all.
What a surprise, then, to find the movie unexpectedly shift gears at the midway point to become a rather earnest melodrama instead. It is quite the achievement to maintain both characters and a general aesthetic while moving the emotional direction in such an unexpected fashion. It is not necessarily any better than the film was in its earlier scenes, but it is probably more entertaining.
The film is well performed, particularly in regards to Ludovica Francesconi’s bubbly and rather likeable performance as Marta. The rich photography, lighting, and slightly elaborate costumes are also rather charming, and do a lot to overcome the silliness of the plot. The film’s Turin location is always well handled, showcasing a beautiful city without ever feeling like a video for tourists.
The golden rule of reviewing things is to base one’s assessment on two questions. The first is ‘What is the artist trying to do?’. The second is ‘Do they succeed in that goal?’ With Out of My League Alice Fillipi has aimed to make a breezy and attractive romantic film with some inventive wrinkles and complications, and it is fair to say she has succeeded. It is not an outstanding film, but is perfectly well executed to meet its purpose. If it looks or sounds like your kind of movie then it very probably is. The opposite is, of course, also true.