Released in Italy for last Christmas, and now available internationally on Netflix, 7 Women and a Murder is an odd little remake of François Ozon’s 8 Femmes (2002), itself an adaptation of a Robert Thomas play. It seems odd for two reasons: firstly, because Ozon’s effort – which starred Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and Emmanuelle Béart – was already well-regarded and a 12-time Cesar nominee. Secondly, because in this case director Alessandro Genovesi (My Big Gay Italian Wedding) does not seem to have brought anything of note to significantly transform or improve on the original. One does wonder what motivated Genovesi to make it.
Seven women assemble in a remote Italian mansion, where they discover family patriarch Marcello has been brutally stabbed in the back. With the gates locked and telephone line cut, they are trapped inside the house. One of them is the killer, and all seven have terrible secrets to reveal. The murder mystery is more an excuse than a focus, allowing the women to pick away at one another, clearing away deceptions and uncovering an array of hidden truths. Given the farce-like comedy and the limited setting – almost all of the film takes place in the mansion’s drawing room – the theatrical origins of the story are clear. Not only does it feel like a play adapted to film, there is a strong sense that the script would work better on the stage than the screen.
While a little disappointing, it would be a stretch to call it bad. At less than 90 minutes in length, 7 Women and a Murder is never at risk of outstaying its welcome, and indeed acts as a pleasant diversion for an evening. With nothing inventive or particularly original about its story and script, it falls to the cast and the design to keep things enjoyable. The costume design by Francesca Sartori is a treasure for fashion lovers, not only using a rich variety of colour but also expressing each individual character. Those characters are played distinctively by the film’s excellent cast. They do a lot of work in lifting the underwhelming script, and in making 7 Women an enjoyable thing to watch.
While all seven women give wonderfully entertaining performances, there are a few who deliver something more accomplished than their peers. Luisa Ranieri plays the maid Maria, and her down-to-earth and cool delivery makes for a great contrast against some of the more heightened turns. In that regard Sabrina Impacciatore is another standout, playing the bookish and nervous spinster Aunt Agostina as broad caricature. It is a mutually supportive cast overall. The more in-your-face characters naturally take up much of the energy, but smartly shift to the sidelines when the less overt players get the spotlight. It is a broad ensemble cast, but for all its fault the film balances them well.
So not a great film but, it must be said, an entertaining one. For the audience who will appreciate this broad, old-fashioned comedy or who are fans of its impressive all-female cast, there is plenty in 7 Women to act as a pleasant Italian-language diversion. Short, silly, and fun: it meets its limited ambition and does a serviceable job.