• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Movie Curiosities

The online diary of an aspiring movie nerd

A while back, there was this movie called Ford v Ferrari. Early on in that much better movie, Lee Iacocca (as played by Jon Bernthal) presents his case for why Ford should purchase the Ferrari company.

“Enzo Ferrari spent every lira he had chasing after perfection,” said Iacocca. “Well, he got it. And now he’s broke.”

With Ferrari, I was expecting the story of how Enzo Ferrari (here played by Adam Driver) had achieved perfection at the cost of his company’s insolvency. But no, turns out it’s about pretty much every other damn thing else.

We pick up in 1957, a year after the passing of Ferrari’s son Dino. By this point, Ferrari’s company is already so deep into the red that he’s getting pressured into selling to Ford or Fiat. Complicating matters further, the competing Maserati is also on the rocks. Both companies are betting their respective futures on the Mille Miglia, hoping that such a prestigious first-place finish will boost the brand value and thereby boost car sales.

I should add that the Mille Miglia is a race in which cars drive at triple-digit speeds through a thousand miles of public road. If that sounds like a bad idea, it won’t surprise you to hear that the climax features what may be the single bloodiest car wreck in cinema history. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

While all that’s going on, Enzo and his wife (Laura, played by Penelope Cruz) are dealing with the loss of their son. Enzo copes by sleeping around with another woman (Lina Lardi, played by Shailene Woodley) and raising their illegitimate son (Piero Lardi, played by Giuseppe Festinese), though politics forbid him from publicly claiming the boy as his offspring. Oh, and he can’t divorce his wife because Laura controls too much of the company stock and finances.

Meanwhile, Laura is dealing with a dead son, an unfaithful husband (who, remember, has a bastard son by another woman), a company going bankrupt, and a marriage breaking down. And she copes with all of this by, uh… well, by acting like a spiteful bitch, mostly. It’s tough to blame her for being angry, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t make the character any easier to watch.

That’s a huge recurring problem with the whole movie, in fact, and it starts with the protagonist. For instance, the story is centered around a man who’s married to freaking Penelope Cruz, he’s banging Shailene Woodley on the side, and I’m supposed to feel… sorry for him? Should he be sympathetic or relatable, should I hate him? How am I supposed to feel about this?

Why should I care if Ferrari goes under? This isn’t made into a matter of national pride, the film barely mentions the workers who’ll be out of a job if the race fails, and the race is between two like-minded wealthy assholes who make luxury cars. It’s like the exact opposite of what made Ford v Ferrari work.

Compounding the issue, Ferrari himself is so inscrutable that it’s borderline impossible to get into his head. It certainly doesn’t help that all the Italian accents are so impenetrably thick. Put it all together and Driver isn’t really playing a character so much as he’s playing an accent.

Everyone in this movie with any kind of impact on the plot is an asshole. I’d make a minor exception for Lina, but she keeps fucking around with a married man, so I can’t even exclude her in good conscience. And sure, it’s entirely possible for a movie to work with a cast full of unsympathetic characters, but only if they’re made to suffer or grow in some way. Or maybe if the film is presented as a kind of cautionary tale. None of that happens here.

The big problem I kept running into here is that I had no reason whatsoever to care. The film does such a terrible job of establishing the stakes or making the characters compelling that I was bored to tears through most of the runtime. I had no idea why the characters did most of what they did, and I had no reason whatsoever to give a fuck one way or the other.

But what of the action? The car chases and wrecks and such? Well, we only get something like two or three in the entire runtime. The car races are shot well enough, except it’s not always easy to tell which car is on which team because they’re all the exact same shade of red. What might be even worse is how a few of the kills are telegraphed in advance. My personal favorite example is the race car driver who gets turned down for a job because Ferrari already has a driver. You could set your watch to what happens next.

Then there’s the big climactic crash I was alluding to earlier. Yes, it’s gut-wrenching to watch so many people get killed in such spectacular fashion. But my sympathy for the moment is severely undercut by the fact that this whole tragedy was a hundred percent foreseeable and preventable. Damn straight the Ferrari company was cleared of all culpability, where in the nine hells were the event organizers who let race cars travel down public roads where literally anything could happen to the cars from out of nowhere and civilians could watch the race behind no protective barricades whatsoever?!

With Ferrari, I’m at a loss for what the point was. Who was the audience meant to sympathize with? What was the intended takeaway here? The failure to establish compelling stakes or character development is a profound disappointment unworthy of a cinematic master like Michael Mann.

Then again, on closer inspection, the poster clearly says “Written by Troy Kennedy Martin” right there next to Mann’s credit. And it looks like Brock Yates got a screenplay credit as well. I wonder what else they’ve done. *checks IMDb*. Hey, Neon? I’d be trying my best to keep that a secret if I was you.

Except for the screenwriters, everyone involved with this deserved better. Hell, Enzo Ferrari himself and everyone portrayed in this movie deserved better. This one’s a dud.

By Curiosity Inc.

I hold a B.S. in Bioinformatics, the only one from Pacific University's Class of '09. I was the stage-hand-in-chief of my high school drama department and I'm a bass drummer for the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. I dabble in video games and I'm still pretty good at DDR. My primary hobby is going online for upcoming movie news. I am a movie buff, a movie nerd, whatever you want to call it. Comic books are another hobby, but I'm not talking about Superman or Spider-Man or those books that number in the triple-digits. I'm talking about Watchmen, Preacher, Sandman, etc. Self-contained, dramatic, intellectual stories that couldn't be accomplished in any other medium. I'm a proud son of Oregon, born and raised here. I've been just about everywhere in North and Central America and I love it right here.

One thought on “Ferrari”
  1. Mann really should’ve just worked with newer writers to polish this script, rather than insist that this 90s era screenplay from two deceased writers (when he probably should’ve directed it) was untouchable. Also just some of the most godawful CG I’ve seen in a longtime.

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