The Face With Two Left Feet

The Face With Two Left Feet.
Laser Films 1979.

Before watching the movie:

A hotel cook starts disco dancing to impress a girl because he happens to have a resemblance to John Travolta is pretty much all I have to go on for this movie. Also it was produced in Italian. I assume things get out of hand.

After watching the movie:

Gianni is a shy, dull young man who works as a cook in a hotel and has no vices. Or he didn’t, until he saw Ilona, the beauty spinning records at the local disco. Now he sits in the corner of the club awkwardly every night watching her. Then his friends from the hotel decide he needs help. Their rowdy idea of getting Gianni introduced to Ilona gets him banned by the club owner Raoul. One of the women in the group of friends loves John Travolta so much that she keeps a poster of him in her locker, and when some of the boys deface it with a mustache, the group discovers that actually, Gianni has an amazing resemblance to John Travolta, and with just a slight makeover, he could be a lookalike.

Maybe it’s funnier in Italian? This story feels like it takes forever for anything to happen, and even once the conceit of the movie finally kicks in, not much happens. Things don’t spiral out of control, just burn slowly to a resolution, with some moral about how he was better off how he looked before, but the experience has taught him confidence.

Sometimes movies like this happen because someone noticed an actor’s resemblance and had to make a movie about it. Those don’t necessarily turn out well, and this is as half baked as some of the other examples I can think of, though the main example that comes to mind isn’t even a professional production. Most of the characters have the same name as their actors, which might be a sign this movie wasn’t thought through very well.

Gianni’s “friends” are raucous young hotel workers that Gianni wishes would just leave him alone, but have decided that he’s sad and amusing and needs their attention even though he resents their help. I was annoyed by them as characters being called his friends until I realized they’re coworkers he’s stuck with that only think they’re his friends. That seems like something that would happen with young twentysomethings. And Gianni does eventually come to appreciate them once he can do so on his own terms.

This movie’s glacial place and thin plot might have been made up for with snappy dialogue, and it’s possible the translation let down the movie. It has its amusing moments, but it mostly just sets things up until everything is in place, and then lets things take a natural progression that isn’t all that much fun or notable. It seems to be entirely built on the novelty of a John Travolta lookalike, which really isn’t enough to hold a story together.

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