When you come across anything related to the new Netflix film – ‘Still out of my league’ (Ancora più bello), your mind comes up with the obvious references of two films – the French film, Amelie & the English-language film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. They seem to be largely obvious choices because of the aesthetic elements that this film uses and the protagonist of its narrative in accordance with the medical conditions she is struggling with. It would be a surprise for anyone who has seen the 2001 French film to not think of the striking resemblance to its colour palette as its visual aspect – besides the appearance of its lead character, especially her hairdo. Its yellows and reds and greens give us an illusion that we are in a similar film like the older classic.
But what it forgets is the depth that was present in the writing for Amelie’s character and her behaviour being a result of the same. The French film had conveyed Amelie’s character to be incredibly introverted and being largely involved in her own little dream world. So whatever comes across on the screen becomes a manifestation of her wishes and her hidden desires. The tragedy of ‘she wants to express but she just can’t’. What this new Italian film does (like its prequel – Out of my league) is that it gives very few glimpses into the internal conflict of the character and depends largely on the exterior ones – which appear to be cliches of what has been shown in similar romantic comedies in the past.
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When the story has the element of the character’s disease and her deteriorating health – being back and forth from the devil of death due to her symptoms – it does not make it nearly as heartwrenching since it resorts to the same old cliches to elicit an emotional reaction, the ones that have been done to death before. What The Fault in Our Stars does significantly better is to give space for the characters to have interactions that make their internal battles apparent – but without the overt expositions. What Still Out of My League does is that it uses the expositions to a large degree to often make their interactions seem unnatural. Would we always tell every single thought without trying to find some other way to express it? Does it always need to always come out verbally? Perhaps the screenwriter differs from my point of view on that – which makes my viewing experience uninteresting.
And I understand the idea of avoiding the mention of medical conditions in every other scene. The idea of not making the conflict bigger and making her spirit to live life shine and her desire to lead a life like any other person – trying to feel the love like any other person would. But it tries very little to deviate from the genre elements of such films from the past and makes it a mediocre attempt at creating romance. You predict the heartbreak, the betrayal element, the obvious aftermath of a long-distance relationship beyond other themes much before you see it on screen – mostly because these cliches have been repetitively used before in similar screenplays. Besides the predictability, it presents a very unbalanced narrative where the tension is unevenly distributed without the script which dulls the emotional impact of its entirety. The first film has worked on her character trying to enjoy life to the fullest until she has the privilege to live. While starting on such a noble thought, the sequel feels lacklustre.
Despite cliches, ‘Still out of my league’ does feel earnest in trying to open a discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace. With the lead character’s female roommate exposing her boss in a certain sequence, we come across an admirable attempt to speak on such issues. We see the element of growth in her male roommate who grows out from the adolescent way of looking at the world – at his own love life – being open to being rejected – being understanding of other people’s choices while knowing how that isn’t nearly as bad as he would have thought it to be in the past. But while it makes these admirable, coming-of-age narrative arcs of its supporting characters, it does not endow the same level of understanding to the protagonist’s arc.
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And ‘Still out of my league’ also feels a little too long for the amount of character reveal it has, despite the character development being incredibly basic. Besides the script, the length doesn’t feel justifiable because the presentation is uninventive. The cinematography is definitely a treat to watch as an experience of purely a standpoint of how it uses lights and the colour palette for its benefit. It adds to the cutesiness that the film craves to bring. But there was very little appealing beyond the film looking nice for the sake of looking nice. So no matter how open I wished to be in order to grasp the film for what it is and what it chooses to convey and how it chooses to convey that, I could find very little of this film to be redeeming.