Ferrari (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Michael Mann, written by Troy Kennedy Martin and Brock Yates and starring Adam Driver, Penélope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Patrick Dempsey, Derek Hill, Jack O’Connell, Leonardo Caimi, Gabriel Leone, Michele Savoia, Damiano Neviani, Giuseppe Bonifati and Valentina Belle.
Adam Driver has the showy role of Enzo Ferrari in the new Michael Mann drama, Ferrari, but it is his co-star, Penélope Cruz, who actually gets some of the movie’s most dramatically intriguing moments within the picture. Driver really has become Enzo and the actor has gotten into character, thanks, in part, to makeup and the wardrobe department. However, the quality of Driver’s performance is expected given the actor’s impressive body of recent work. That’s not to say that Cruz hasn’t done some wonderful acting herself, but she seems to have a more intense characterization than usual here in her best performance since her turn in Parallel Mothers.
Mann is one of the most distinct directors of our time and his showy race car scenes in Ferrari are go-for-broke sequences that will appeal to those who like fast cars or who are interested in the history behind the car brand showcased in the movie. Primarily focused on the summer of 1957, Mann’s new movie has a lot of the filmmaker’s signature close ups of either the actors or the cars that dominate the picture. The film opens with news footage that shows Ferrari, the man, in action. The story informs us of Enzo and his wife, Laura (Cruz)’s “in-together” investment regarding their business. But, the movie shifts focus on dramatics and the death of the couple’s son, Dino, who died of muscular dystrophy at a young age which has come between the pair in more ways than one.
Shailene Woodley appears in the movie as Lina Lardi, Enzo’s mistress with whom he has a grown child, also a son. Laura has sort of believed something other than what is based in reality regarding her husband. Laura doesn’t take nonsense but being a woman of religious values, she tolerates more than most women would. The casting of Woodley is one of the movie’s few missteps and although the actress’s work is heartfelt, the miscasting of Woodley in the pivotal part here sheds some credibility to the film.
This movie is centered on race car driving. “The Mille Miglia” is the chosen event that Ferrari takes on head on and fearlessly. Mann’s picture doesn’t spare authenticity with these sequences. There are Italian locations that are well used during these parts of the film and are simply awe-inspiring. Enzo invests in five drivers to help represent his business; among them are Peter (Jack O’Connell) and Piero (an under-used Patrick Dempsey). Gabriel Leone plays a racer who is dating a movie star which should help Ferrari get much needed publicity.
Ferrari is about three central months which helped define Enzo’s fate, but it also details the personal life of a man who was very complex. Driver, with his slicked back hair and spiffy wardrobe, plays Enzo as something of an enigma. Driver nails the look of the part and the mannerisms of his character, but the audience never truly understands what made him do the things he has done in his past. We know he wants to move cars but we never get inside his emotions in the way one might anticipate. Mann is more interested in car crashes and racing, at times. than the man himself although the director simultaneously, creates, in Laura, a relatable character with whom the audience can sympathize with in a certain respect.
A lot of how much you enjoy Ferrari does depend on what you think of Laura as a person and she’s not always easy to like. However, it’s tremendously simple to understand her desires and her difficult decisions which she must make regarding the business she co-owns and her husband’s secrets. Yes, the editing of the race scenes is spectacular and the results of those scenes are devastatingly fascinating to behold. It is Cruz’s performance, though, which ultimately holds the film together as her character gives the movie a dramatic center in-between the more chaotic moments.
Back again to Patrick Dempsey, he’s much better here than he’s been in other recent movies. Dempsey can be a reliable character actor and has a role here that could have probably been stronger but despite this fact, he acquits himself admirably in this part. O’Connell also gets his moments to shine in another solid supporting performance.
Woodley eventually makes you understand the depths of her character because of the actress’s dedicated efforts. By the film’s end, one can overlook her miscasting and focus on the character more than the problems with the actress playing her. Driver and Cruz are the most valuable players and will keep viewers watching but keep in mind, the movie really will work better for the car brand’s enthusiasts who will find the history more compelling than people who don’t drive or couldn’t care less about cars or races.
Whatever its problems are, the one thing that holds true about Ferrari is that it’s Cruz’s shot at another Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress. Adam Driver could have been deserving of acting accolades in a lesser year, but the actor certainly takes a lot of risks here in terms of playing somebody who isn’t ordinary by any measure. As far as Michael Mann movies go, it would have been nice to see more character development than plot development in Ferrari. However, thanks to his tremendous technical precision in the new film, Mann remains a true master craftsman. Ferrari is thus a ride worth taking.
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