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Margherita Bay, John Turturro

“MIA MADRE” My rating: B- 

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Nanni Moretti’s “Mia Madre” is like Fellini’s “8 1/2” melded with a dying mom movie.

It’s not always a graceful union, but since the film stars Margherita Buy (who makes middle age look impossibly attractive), we go along for the ride.

Margherita (Bay) is in the middle of directing a movie about economic upheaval, ruthless corporations and striking workers.

That would be enough to keep her plate full, but every evening after closing down the set she goes to a  hospital where her mother, Ada (Giulia Lazzarini), a retired teacher, is awaiting the results of tests. It’s not looking good.

Margherita is torn between a demanding, often maddening profession and an abbreviated personal life.  Divorced, she has no lovers and only rarely sees her teenage daughter (Beatrice Mancini).  And while she may be a master of emotional nuance on the big screen, she struggles to connect in real life.

She feels particularly helpless and guilty about Ada.  Thank heaven for her brother (writer/director Moretti), who has taken a leave of absence from his job to care for their mama…although this only makes Margherita feel even guiltier.

Moratti, who specializes in droll comedies (“We Have a Pope,” “Caro Diario”), is in a more sober mood this time around.  A dying parent, after  all, is a sobering topic.

But he nevertheless finds humor in the form of an American actor (John Turturro) who has been cast as a factory owner in Margherita’s movie and brings along a backpack of neuroses, bullshit anecdotes (he claims to have been a protege of Stanley Kubrick, though nobody can find his name in the credits of any Kubrick film), and the inability to remember his lines.

There are some surreal dream sequences (another nod to Fellini) as Margherita’s overtaxed psyche attempts to deal with all the chaos in her world

A lot of the on-set movie scenes are inside baseball, and will be far more amusing to viewers who’ve actually worked in the movies than to the average filmgoer.

The parts of the film dealing with Margherita and her mother,while fairly glum, certainly reflect a common parent/child dynamic.

Bottom line: “Madre Mia” is fine, but nothing to write home about.

| Robert W. Butler

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