Puccini for Beginners
Bottom 40% of all time (see others with this rank)
2006 (click here to see all competition films from this year)
Justin Kirk, Gretchen Mol, Elizabeth Reaser
Maria Maggenti, Eden Wurmfeld, Gary Winick, Jake Abraham, Mauricio Rubinstein, Sue Graef, Aleta Shaffer
Everyone is love-crazed in Maria Maggenti's delightfully quick-witted screwball comedy, Puccini for Beginners; but Allegra Castiglione -- our dashing, adorable heroine -- is by far the most commitment phobic. Her lesbian lover dumped her because she couldn't settle down and say "I love you." And just as she's drowning her sorrows in a giant slice of Camembert, in walks Philip, a dapper Columbia professor who, against her better judgment, lights her fire. Kicking and screaming, she launches an affair with -- heaven forbid -- a man! Meanwhile, she falls into bed with irresistibly gorgeous Grace, a recently single, straight woman, of all things. While juggling two romances that are advancing way too quickly for comfort, Allegra lands in hot water that boils over into an explosive, cathartic climax for all. Waltzing beyond the coming-out stories of a decade ago, Maggenti playfully ushers in a new era of lesbian cinema free from an ideological agenda. Here sexuality is fluid and unapologetic, while gender identity and politics are hotly debated -- and even poked fun at -- rather than narrowly defined. Smart, snappy dialogue and effortlessly charming performances by Elizabeth Reaser, Justin Kirk, and Gretchen Mol make this triangular tale soar. Like an accomplice, a glistening New York City operates as an enchanting cosmopolitan village, where chance meetings alter destinies and anything is possible.
Caroline Libresco (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)