‘Four for Dinner’ Review: Meticulously Smooth Romantic Comedy

‘Four for Dinner’ Review: Meticulously Smooth Romantic Comedy

FILM “Four for dinner”

WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IS IT ABOUT Interrogating the question of whether anyone can have a single soul mate, the Italian romantic comedy “Four to Dinner” is set in two alternate timelines where the four single friends of a couple get together.

A timeline finds Matteo (Matteo Martari) and Giulia (Matilde Gioli) falling in love after Giulia becomes pregnant with their baby. In this same universe, Dario (Giuseppe Maggio) and Chiara (Ilenia Pastorelli) become friends who mutually harbor even stronger feelings and start a long flirtation of whether they want to or not.

These plots are intertwined with a second potential series of romantic outcomes, where Matteo woos Chiara and Dario and Giulia begin a relationship.

The film by director Alessio Maria Federici and screenwriter Martino Coli now airs on Netflix.

MY SAY This movie makes sense from a conceptual point of view: sure, why not cross these plots together, make beautiful people fall in love and fall out of love, add some clichés about fate, and add clichés?

There’s an audience for that, especially since the rom-com genre has been going through tough times lately as a large segment of the movie business focuses exclusively on superheroes.

But it’s best to leave some ideas unrealized, and no matter how good “Four to Dinner” sounded on paper, the reality of having to put up with this for about 100 minutes is very different.

In its most basic sense, this genre relies on the audience engaging in the characters on screen to the point where it is possible to feel some of the same catharsis that they feel when the inevitable finally arrives and they end up together.

It’s impossible to get there in “Four to Dinner,” because these are some of the least interesting movie characters you can think of. They hardly have any personality. The actors do what they can, but there is nothing about these ordinary people who live ordinary lives in picturesque settings.

Their romantic entanglements almost seem boring on purpose – it’s impossible to worry whether one character is joining another in Lisbon or not, or to be particularly interested in the question of how supportive Matteo will be as a father. The filmmaker fails to conceive of a striking character detail or plot twist.

Pulling the gimmick could have helped on some level. The constant jump between timelines, serving some vague point about destiny, only further dilutes the impact of any storyline.

But everything is so painstakingly smooth.

Actors receive loads of dialogue in what appears to be an effort to compensate for this, but which ends up detracting from attempts to tell the story using the visual tools of the cinema. Throwing in a reference to Plato’s “Symposium” doesn’t really make you smart. Sometimes a little reassurance goes a long way.

BOTTOM LINE A new rom-com is always welcome, but it would be better to rewatch “When Harry Met Sally …” than bother with “Four to Dinner.”

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