(2022, 101 min)
Director: Alessandro Guida, Matteo Pilati
Studio: Doco Digital
Language: Italian w/subtitles
Antonio is a 30 yo family man, whose life finds an unexpected twist when he's suddenly dumped by his husband, whom he depends both psychologically and economically: he needs to find a new place to stay, a job and a new purpose in life. Antonio finds a room in an apartment owned by Denis and starts to work in a bakery owned by Luca, while attending pastry school. Through this process he discovers that it was wrong of him to give up his independence for the sake of his relationship in the past.
30-year-old Antonio (Giancarlo Commare) believes he is living a happy life with his husband Lorenzo (Carlo Calderone) until the rug is pulled out from under him and Lorenzo asks for a divorce. Caught completely off-guard, Antonio finds a room to rent with male escort Denis (Eduardo Valdarnini) and gets a job at a bakery helping the handsome Luca (Gianmarco Saurino). As he starts to get back onto his feet, Antonio has to navigate the world of modern dating and learn the harsh lessons of mixing friendship and sex.
‘Mascarpone’ is a different sort of coming-of-age story than we often get to see in gay cinema. Rather than a closeted young man trying to come to terms with his sexuality, we’re instead presented with a well-adjusted out gay man whose seemingly perfect life crumbles down around his ears. The film opens with Antonio being hit on by Luca in the gym, and after rebuffing his advances due to his commitment to Lorenzo, Antonio soon learns that Lorenzo hasn’t been honouring their vows at all. The revelation leads Antonio into a spiral as he’s forced to live without the person he thought would always be by his side.
Taken under Denis’ wing, Antonio is introduced to Luca (properly this time) and it’s not long before the two of them are hooking up in the bakery kitchen. Denis and Luca appoint themselves as Antonio’s dating guides, and they send him off on a host of dates in an attempt to help him move on with his life. At the same time, the boundaries between friendship and sex are blurred with not only Luca but also Denis, causing tension and resentment to grow between the trio.
Directors Alesandro Guida and Matteo Pilati, who wrote the screenplay with Giuseppe Paternò, craft a compelling and genuinely engaging story with ‘Mascarpone’. They make it easy for the audience to fall in love with Antonio, and root for him to find his feet again after Lorenzo’s cruel betrayal. It’s refreshing to see this aspect of a gay man’s life as it’s not a story that is often told, but one that occurs just as much with gay couples as it does straight. Antonio is torn between pining for Lorenzo, and fantasising about them getting back together, and getting over his ex by getting under plenty of hot guys.
The story does have a few flaws though. It feels like the end game is going to Antonio and Luca, and despite the two actors having sizzling chemistry, their relationship is squandered and it doesn’t go in the direction the film spends its first half implying. The second half of the film also serves up an unnecessary tragedy, which comes from nowhere and doesn’t really advance the film. Honestly, I don’t think it needed it and it’s handled in such a way that it doesn’t pack the gut punch that the film-makers clearly thought it was going to.
Despite its flaws, ‘Mascarpone’ succeeds in large part thanks to its fantastic cast. Giancarlo Commare digs deep to flesh out Antonio, and he’s a compelling screen presence. Gianmarco Saurino provides serious guy candy while elevating his character Luca, far more than the script actually requires. He’s got such an easy charisma, and the camera loves him, so it’s not hard to see how Antonio’s head gets turned by his new friend. Eduardo Valdarnini is worthy of a mention too as the unfiltered Denis, who isn’t afraid to get naked at the drop of a hat and pushes Antonio outside of his comfort zone. His character may be treated poorly by the story but he makes a mark regardless.
‘Mascarpone’ is a solid rom-com and it’s elevated by strong performances across its stellar cast. The storyline may go a bit haywire towards the end, and the payoff will likely leave you disappointed, but the film’s got such an irresistible charm that you can almost forgive its flaws. It’s clear that ‘Mascarpone’ was made with plenty of heart and while it may not quite achieve its potential, it’s still one of the stronger releases in gay cinema in 2022.
-- Review by Pip Ellwood-Hughes, Entertainment Focus (http://www.entertainment-focus.com)