A light-hearted comedy delivers an important message
Alessandro Genovesi’s Italian box office success Puoi baciare lo sposo (2018) translated into English as My Big Gay Italian Wedding (Zwick’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding inevitably springs to mind as a similar title to draw from but Genovesi’s film is based on the long-running Broadway hit by Anthony Wilkinson) is a light-hearted, feel-good comedy which despite its initial somewhat cringeworthy sentimentality builds nicely and is bound to leave audiences entertained and exiting the cinema with a smile on their lips. Embracing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, as well as transvestism as alternative preferences to the norm, the more we delve into Genovesi’s visual narrative, screened at the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year, the more we realise how current and valuable this film is – at a time defined by its inherent fluidity and where sexuality is expressed in multiple ways, with gay love becoming increasing fearlessly exhibited and gay marriage accepted also in countries that used to be hesitant and even rejective of homosexual gender and identity expressions, including Italy which is steeped in a conservative Catholic tradition (and which, only last year, saw the release of another film exploring a similar topic albeit in a rather more elegant and subtle manner, Luca Guadagnino’s superb Chiamami col tuo nome).
My Big Gay Italian Wedding opens with lead character Antonio (played by a smooth Cristiano Caccamo) expressing his love for his male partner Paolo (Salvatore Esposito). Antonio’s is the only face initially in focus as we watch him openly recall the first time he was approached by Paolo, verbalising his feelings while he takes us down memory lane. Antonio’s open declaration of love and affection for Paolo soon leads to marriage proposal which is when Paolo first enters the scene, the camera zooming in on his moved facial expression. From here on we get to know a quartet of friends (including Paolo’s exuberant female flatmate and an older Italian eccentric whose crossdressing tendencies are a perfect ingredient in this somewhat goofy yet charming romantic comedy) who set out on a journey that soon becomes a road trip, from Germany to Italy ̶ on a mission: Antonio must gain the marriage approval from his unsuspecting parents who have previously been introduced only to girlfriends. His mother big enough to see the bigger picture and with a parental blessing to back him up, Antonio can openly become one with his “new” gender identity. A number of narrative twists and turns later the film has reached a positive outcome for all and in a final scene that takes us into the musical genre, My Big Gay Italian Wedding ends on a satisfying, happy note. Timely and with an important message, Genovesi’s film strikes a chord with audiences nationally and abroad – no doubt also with Melbourne Lavazza Italian Film Festival goers.