It doesn’t matter that In Search of Fellini is derivative. The film, written by Nancy Cartwright and Peter Kjenaas, and billed as based on Ms. Cartwright’s “mostly” true experience, reinterprets some of Federico Fellini’s (Il Maestro) most important works. Under the direction of Taron Lexton, In Search of Fellini creates parallels between some of Fellini’s great works and important cast members and the story of a young woman’s individuation. The film imitates Il Maestro’s montages and characters, at times hitting the nail on the head such as the depiction of Sylvia in La Dolce Vita played by Anita Ekberg in the 1960 production and by Beth Riesgraf in this production; and at other times missing the mark altogether like in the casting and interpretation of Guilietta Masina for both, The Nights of Cabiria (1957) and in La Strada (1954), and as an out-of-context Cabiria herself. But, In Search of Fellini is not trying to hide its source material and inspiration, or replace Fellini’s works, it’s simply adoring of his work, an in this regard, the film is in reverence of the rich and magical world that Fellini creates.
Everyone knows that Masina was essential to cinema and to Fellini himself. It may have been Marguerite Duras who once said that even if Masina had only made La Strada in her career, her interpretation of Gelsomina is so perfect that that performance alone would have been enough to cement Masina in the history of cinema. So, although In Search of Fellini is about the potentially cliché story of a naïve, young, and sheltered Midwestern American girl (Lucy, played by Ksenia Solo) who goes in search of something greater and unknown and in the process discovers love and herself; the film avoids the pitfalls of becoming a cliché because it resists being all about a romcom, and instead hinges on creating a parallel between Lucy’s journey and Masina’s quiet grace. Like in any great Fellini film, the lines between dreams and reality are blurred, and so viewers should suspend belief and not get caught up on underdeveloped plot points, and instead should just enjoy that parallel worlds created between relationships in Fellini’s work, and Lexton’s. The film is an aesthetic treat, glitzy, chaotic, and reminiscent of films like Fellini’s Roma (1972) or Juliet of the Spirits (1965), or any other of his productions that are complete with random animals, circuses and traffic jams.
For the most part, the cast in the film is solid, and there is synergy between Lucy and her mom (Maria Bello); and between the mom and her sister (Mary Lynn Rajskub). Ms. Solo gives a skillful performance with good timing so that Lucy’s breakthroughs are believable and unassuming. Ms. Solo comes into the protagonist role via a solid path of smaller roles in TV and film that serve her well, her past roles include Veronica in Black Swan, Shay Davydov (Cosima’s girlfriend) in Orphan Black, and Peggy Shippen in Turn: Washington’s Spies.
For viewers who have ever gone on a quest and been inspired by Fellini, or Salvador Dalí, or Frida Kahlo, or the Grateful Dead, this film is an acknowledgement of what it means to be moved and chase an ideal, of the universal need to search and the unavoidable growth that comes with loss. If nothing else, In Search of Fellini should inspire viewers to see the auteur’s work for themselves.
R for sexuality/nudity and language
Monday 1/29/2018 at 8:05 PM