Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Unlike the other films I saw at this year’s New York Film Festival (click here & here to read), I actually sat with this one for a few days before sharing my thoughts. I waited seven years to see this and I want to chose my words carefully. I have mixed feelings about Michael Mann’s latest Enzo Ferrari biopic. It disappointed and exceed expectation at the same time. Anything involving a car is an A+ as far as I’m concerned. The sound design, the cinematography, etc – it’s all great. Even the couple of surprise car wrecks, reminiscent of Tarantino’s Death Proof, were incredibly visceral and got a reaction out of me that no movie has in quite some time (I haven’t really spoiled anything. These scenes come out of nowhere and you wont be expecting them). 
Now…anything that had to do with the actual story felt like a C-. I know some folks may think it’s silly to take a piece of art and use school grades to judge – but some of the accents in the film are pretty silly. Too silly for a film like this in my opinion. I appreciate Adam Driver’s dedication to his semi-subdued yet sill forced Italian accent but Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Lina Lardi (Enzo’s mistress and mother of his son) was a bit frustrating. Her accent was a mix of American, Eastern European & Italian, and the performance was pretty forgettable (the chemistry between Driver and Woodley wasn’t really there either). Watching Ferrari made me wish there was a bigger pool of diverse actors to pull from in terms of age & nationality. Adam Driver was “fine” as Enzo Ferrari but are there no prolific older actors in their very late 50s/early 60s that could have pulled this role off? Is there no young up & coming Italian actress that could have portrayed Ferrari’s mistress? This is Michael Mann’s first feature film in almost a decade so that’s really the draw. It’s not like Woodley’s presence was going to make any difference. I know you need a "big name" or a recognizable actor to "sell" a movie but this is about the return of Michael Mann at the end of day.

With the exception of a few flashbacks, Ferrari focuses primarily on the 1957 Mille Miglia race along with Ferrari’s failing marriage & business. The issue here is even though the movie takes place over the course of one summer, there’s still the equivalent of three movies in this one biopic (a potential Right Stuff-style story about the team of racers hired by Ferrari, the horrific tragedy that came out of the 1957 Mille Miglia race, and Ferrari’s personal life at the time). This isn’t a quick 100 minute film but it’s still ten pounds of substance in a five pound bag. The movie ends at a weird place leaving me wanting another hour. But at a certain point I guess we do have to wrap things up. Perhaps this would have worked better as a mini-series? 

I’m giving Ferrari a hard time but there are some positives. I sensed pinches of modern-day Terrence Malick's style in some select isolated moments. I know that might turn some folks off but that's a good thing as far as I' concerned...

A Hidden Life / Ferrari

Knight Of Cups / Ferrari

Knight Of Cups / Ferrari

I’m not even that caught up in the visual accuracy or how much the actors look like the real life people they’re portraying. If anything we need to stray further away from that. The more obsessed some actors & filmmakers become with the look and mannerisms of their real life subjects - the more things turns in to a feature length SNL sketch (Viola Davis’ recent portrayal of Michelle Obama should have made folks do a universal reset on how biopics are approached). Mann doesn’t get caught up in any of that with Ferrari but there’s still a lack of chemistry between a lot of the actors and just an overall layer of flatness outside of Penelope Cruz’s portrayal as Laura Ferrari (I assure the accents are not the only problem with this movie).  
There are certainly a nice amount of signature Mann-style shots in Ferrari but he doesn't go full-on "Michael Mann" from start to finish (the trailer does a good job of capturing the best shots but those moments are stretched out inside of a 140+ minute film). If I'm being honest, even Public Enemies has more style than Ferrari which is a problem because, in my opinion, an Italian film full of sexy cars should be oozing with style from start to finish and that's just not the case here.


No matter how many mixed feelings I have, I still loved watching Ferrari on the big screen. That’s the only way to watch it. This movie falls short in a few places but I still encourage everyone to see it big. I suppose this is the best thing Mann has done since Miami Vice? But is that really saying much? 


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