‘Caterina in the Big City’ examines human politics

  • By Robert Horton / Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, August 4, 2005 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

If “Mean Girls” had a strong political component, it might look like “Caterina in the Big City,” an Italian film that covers some of the same ground. This one’s not really a comedy, however.

Twists: An adolescent girl moves from the country to the city (Rome) in this politically minded variation on “Mean Girls.” Sergio Castellitto is a standout as the girl’s frustrated father. In Italian, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for language, subject matter.

Now showing: Seven Gables.

We begin in small-town Italy, where a schoolteacher and self-styled intellectual (Sergio Castellitto) is happily kissing the rubes good-bye. He has landed a teaching job in Rome, where he’s absolutely certain all his ambitions will come true.

His incredibly patient wife and adolescent daughter are more intimidated. The daughter is Caterina (Alice Teghil), and she’s the film’s main character. Her papa enrolls her in the same school he attended years before – not because she’ll be happy there, but because her class includes the children of academic heavy-hitters he’d like to meet.

At first Caterina feels like a hick, but soon the warring social factions are courting her. This is a school where the goth-geek-hippie kids are shouting left-wing political slogans at the preppie-richie kids, who yell back about the virtues of right-wing president Berlusconi. Just like an American junior high.

Caterina’s father gets excited when she befriends one of the punked-out girls, whose mother happens to be a big book editor. He’s been working on the Great Italian Novel and feels no shame about foisting it off on Caterina’s friend (who promptly cracks the manuscript open and cackles at its overheated prose).

Then Caterina falls in with the privileged crowd, the mean girls. This provides a quick lesson in how the powerful can treat an outsider.

Director Paolo Virzi keeps the movie humming along, wisely blending his interest in politics with the human element. The people remain complicated, not mouthpieces for positions.

Especially good is the father, given a fine performance by Castellitto, who is a major European star (recently seen in “My Mother’s Smile”). He perfectly captures a certain type of frustrated second-rater, the guy who blames his lack of fame and fortune on everybody else’s failings.

Even he gets his moment, when he spots two celebrated political enemies making nice after a heated debate. What’s the last angry man to do when he realizes life isn’t as serious as he thought? The movie’s answer is its final twist, and one of its best.

Talk to us

More in Life

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Ash was rescued along with Dexter, just before his euthanasia date. (Luisa Loi / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey Island woman rescues 300 German shepherds

“Can I save them all? No,” Renee Carr, of Oak Harbor said. “But I’m gonna try my hardest.”

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Most Read