May 20, 2024

Beautiful Rebel 2024 Movie Review

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Beautiful Rebel 2024 Movie Review

Gianna (Letizia Toni) stares directly into the camera. “What are you afraid of?” the voice of an interviewer asks from off-screen. “Madness,” is her reply. Then we cut to the late 1950s: Young Gianna sings along to the radio and then we jump ahead a few years to a scene in which her father Danilo (Maurizio Lombardi) insists she give up singing to play tennis and then we jump to a scene in which her father admonishes her for coming home late after being out doing god knows what with that guitar and in that miniskirt and she blackmails him into letting her keep on keeping on with the music, because she knows he’s been cheating on her mother. A few more years go by in the space of a single edit and Gianna walks out of the house and moves into a scuzzy fleabag hotel, where she pastes a poster of Janis Joplin on the wall and makes friends with the local sex workers, one of whom connects her with a friend who gets her foot in the door at a record label and then the sex worker friend dies of an overdose. Did we get her name? I dunno, maybe? Things are moving rather quickly here.

Gianna gets a job singing and playing piano in a lounge, but it’s way too uptight for the likes of this rough-around-the-edges motorcycle-riding woman. One run through her song “Death by Self-Inflicted Abortion” gets her canned – but that very same song moves a female record exec to tears, and Gianna nabs a deal. She meets a gent named Marc (Stefano Rossi Giordani), who becomes her lover; she meets a woman named Carla (Selene Caramazza), who also becomes her lover. Then BAM we get a moment where Carla says “You’ve made two albums,” which tells us that some time has passed. Gianna visits her family and really upsets her father with the cover of her third album – he’s not big on the vibrator thing – so she struts out of the house. The album, “America,” becomes her breakthrough, and we suss out this fact when her mother and brother watch her perform on TV, suggestively licking the mic stand and fellating the microphone. Her father turns the TV off. Gianna, she marches to the beat of her own tempo.

With success comes – well, make a guess. If you said “drugs,” pat yourself on the back. She tries LSD and ends up hoovering up piles of cocaine, much to the chagrin of Carla, who’s on again and off again but at this point is on again enough to get her to stop doing drugs, so she stops. That episode – maybe seven minutes or so – leads us to Gianna’s Musical Reinvention Period, which occurs during (checks notes) I don’t know what year. But her godawful crimped/spiky mullet tells us it’s gotta be the 1980s by now. We get some phony-ass trying-to-write-a-song scenes, and you know how they go: one minute she’s plink-plonk-pounding the piano in frustration, the next, the words and harmonies pour out of her like Gatorade out of a bucket on top of the winning coach. And right about now is when we finally get an inkling of what was going on in that opening interview scene – back then, they called it a “nervous breakdown.” Up to this point, sequences were frustratingly brief, but this next one lasts, oh, about three weeks. Consistency is not this movie’s strong suit.

Beautiful Rebel has the cornerstones of a damn good story: Talented lead, charismatic subject, dramatic life in rock ‘n’ roll, stacks and stacks of very interesting hair. But the film tries to cover too much ground, gracelessly bouncing from scene to scene and rarely providing the necessary context to properly orient us in the setting. On one hand, it’s nice to watch a biopic that doesn’t spoonfeed us with cheeseball montages of concert tours and tracks rising up the charts. On the other hand, it’d be nice to know when we are and where we are and what year it is and what level of success Gianna has achieved to this point.

Predictably, the film climaxes with her big triumphant return to live performance, and that’s when we utter quietly to ourselves, oh, I guess Gianna can fill arenas now. If you’re not a fan, then this movie is not for you. Then again, if you are a fan, you’ll be frustrated by its merciless editing, which doesn’t even allow the triumphant return to live performance to last for even a single song. You know how one of the worst biopics in recent memory, Bohemian Rhapsody, managed to rousingly stage Queen’s stunning Live Aid concert, or how Elvis came alive when the King took the stage and prompted the teens to scream their little panties off? Beautiful Rebel thinks those scenes should be cut right in half.

Character development gets the same treatment – just when we’re about to settle in and get to know Gianna in a less superficial manner, the film gets restless and jumps to the next biographical bullet point. This isn’t its greatest failure, though. No, that would be a big third-act reveal, which makes a circus clown bungling into a barrel look like a ballerina hitting the perfect plie. Total klutzville. The core love story between Gianna and Carla barely takes root; the daddy-issues subplot bursts with cliches; the depiction of mental illness offers little insight into how it helped define Gianna’s character; the period detail is reasonably convincing in every way except the wigs, and you can just smell the melange of brow sweat and scalp glue. The film wraps with real-life footage of Nannini in performance and political protest, and just in that brief handful of moments, it’s glaringly obvious that she is far, far more compelling a figure than the movie we just watched.

Beautiful Rebel 2024 Movie Review