Directors: Alessandro Guida, Matteo Pilati (Italy). Year of Release: 2021
A young man wakes up alone in a large bed. It’s a designer flat, nothing out of place. He crawls out of bed and checks his watch. It’s about ten past one in the afternoon. He goes into the kitchen and grabs a slice of toast, while browsing through a leaflet for a gym that’s lying on the counter. It’s not long before he’s lifting weights while being chatted up by one of the gym’s regulars. Just as you think they’re going to get off together, the man shows the wedding ring on his hand.
Antonio has been seeing Lorenzo, his husband, for 12 years now, since they were both at school. Although Antonio is now pushing 30, he’s never been really part of the dating game. So, it’s a bit of a shock when Lorenzo tells him that it’s time for a divorce. Also, could Antonio move out as soon as possible, to make space for Lorenzo’s new boyfriend Enrico? Well, when he says new, they’ve actually been seeing each other for 18 months, but they didn’t think it would last.
Lorenzo’s sister, Cristina, tells Antonio that he can stay at her place, but Antonio insists that he wants to make a great gesture and move all his stuff out. It soon becomes clear that the gesture is aimed at making Lorenzo plead for him to come back. Antonio negotiates to stay with Denis, a flamboyant sex worker and part-time dealer. The room costs €200 a week, but Antonio assures Denis that he’ll only be there for a month.
Denis also has a designer flat, which he says he inherited from a rich aunt. Life there is usually great, as long as you don’t mind Nessun Dorma being played at full volume when you’re trying to sleep, or coming home to find Denis having a blow job in the front room. Nonetheless, Antonio often behaves petulantly whenever Denis doesn’t pay him full attention. Despite he’s age, he’s still a sulky teenager at heart.
Mascarpone is quite good at setting up dramatic problems, but seeing as these almost all get resolved immediately, there is little tension. Antonio is suddenly homeless? That’s fine, the first place he visits is not just free, but gives him as much time as he wants to make up his mind. He’s broke? That’s not a problem. Lorenzo is so keen to get rid of him that he’ll pay the first 6 months’ rent- He needs to pay rent after that? Problem solved. Denis’s friend Luca has a job on offer.
Luca is a baker, and what do you know? Antonio spent most of his marriage cooking for his ungrateful husband, inspired by his gran. He introduces himself as an architect, but doesn’t seem to have had a days’ work in his life. Maybe he studied architecture at University, or once read a book about Gaudi, or something. Whatever, it’s not long before Antonio is working at the bakery of Luca, who has also paid for him to attend a course with one of Italy’s most prestigious cooks.
Like everyone else in the film – apart from Cristina and her useless husband – Denis and Luca are very good looking young gay men. They make it their mission to induct Antonio into the arts of online dating. This includes telling him the 3 golden rules. I’d let you know what they are, but to be honest I wasn’t paying that much attention. They also introduce Antonio to casual sex, occasionally sleeping with him themselves, or introducing them to similarly minded friends.
When Antonio starts seeing someone regularly, Luca starts to give him some grief. I seem to remember never sleeping with anyone more than once as being one of the three golden rules (although Antonio and Luca sleep with each other often). Could it be that the great philanderer is starting to feel jealous? Maybe all the wise words telling Antonio to sow his wild oats and embrace singlehood came from people who themselves felt unfulfilled in life?
There are 2 ways of approaching Mascarpone. It is very easy to point out all the ways in which the storyline follows sterile old formulae, and doesn’t tell us anything remotely new. I guess this is the way that this review has been mainly going. It’s not that the characters aren’t believable, more that their individual dramas are of no real interest to anyone other themselves.
On the other hand, this is an amiable enough film, where the characters may be a bit dull, but you wouldn’t be appalled at the prospect of spending more time with them. And, it is sad that we must still say this, but it’s still unfortunately true that so many current films are about rich white straight people, that it does bring a little variety to watch some rich white gay men. It’s baby steps, but diversity means the ability to make slow-moving uneventful films about all sections of society.
The best thing to say about Mascarpone may sound like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I seriously mean it. It is neither an offensive nor a patronising film. I’ve seen more than enough films which think that they are explaining the key of life, but have nothing original to relate. Now, Mascarpone doesn’t have anything original to relate either, but at least it doesn’t pretend that it does. It is what it is – and you should take it or leave it on those terms.