Thursday, September 24, 2015

Movie with Abe: Misunderstood

Directed by Asia Argento
Released September 25, 2015

Misfits and outcasts of one generation can often be the trailblazers of the next era. The promise of future redemption isn’t much of a comfort during the time at which said rebellion or atypical behavior is occurring, especially since fame and praise often don’t come until after death. Childhood is a particularly trying time where being different or even seeming different can cause society to turn a cold shoulder. “Misunderstood” is a bold, colorful look at one young girl who faced all odds against her and still persisted to be her own person and exist despite obstacles and closed doors at every turn.

Aria (Giulia Salerno) is a nine-year-old in Rome with two sisters and parents who couldn’t possibly hate each other more. Each sister belongs to only one parent, which makes them the natural favorite of their respective parents. Aria is shuttled back and forth from her oblivious famous actor father (Gabriel Garko) and her torrential mess of a musician mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg), cast out repeatedly by each at the first sign of trouble, even and especially if such disturbances are instigated by the preferred sibling. At school, Aria is a star student detested and mocked by all except her kindhearted best friend, Angelica (Alice Pea), who nervously resists any attempts at rebellion that Aria instigates with her.

Aria’s life is exaggerated, with parents who are true caricatures of bad role models and children in adult form, which only makes her school experience all the more bitter since her home life doesn’t afford her any appreciation of the one place in which she can actually excel. Through it all, however, Aria is starry-eyed and hopeful, often imagining a more positive outcome of events, and continuing to try to latch on to each parent in the sparing moments in which they do pay attention to her and spend a few seconds with her doing something other than scolding, hitting, or outright ejecting her from their lives.

Fourteen-year-old Salerno, who has already been appearing in Italian projects for several years, does a superb job of making Aria a relatable protagonist who still pushes the limits of normal and conventional even if her particular circumstances did not exist. The actors portraying her parents, particularly the dependable Gainsbourg, contribute strongly in creating monsters so self-obsessed and fickle that it’s a wonder they even hang on to their children for as long as they do. This film is an occasionally funny, occasionally disturbing, and fully engaging experience from Italian actress-director Asia Argento that works well in any language.


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