Stylish Films: Ferrari

Even if you have zero interest in motor racing, Ferrari is a pretty special film. A true story, it is set in 1957, a watershed year in the life of Enzo Ferrari, with his namesake company is on the verge of bankruptcy, and Enzo living a double life, in the form of marital hell with his wife estranged wife Laura, with both grieving the loss of their son a year previously. He also has a long term lover Lina Lardi, and a 10 year old son, an open secret known to everyone except Laura.  To try to save his company and restore the prestige of the name Ferrari, he gambles on winning the Mille Miglia, 1,000-mile race across Italy that has been the final race of many drivers. He puts together a new team to do this, including the maverick, lothario driver Alfonso de Portago, who has left a string of broken hearts and children behind him, and is now romancing the film star Linda Christian, the former wife of Tyrone Power. This film shows the story of this year, the race, the drivers and the women in Ferrari’s life, and it is truly riveting, with one shocking scene that it would be ever remove from your mind.

My interest in motor racing of any kind is minimal, but Ferrari is a story of so much more than this. Adam Driver, once again, gives a cool, measured performance, much as he did in House of Gucci, and again, as in that movie, he leaves his leading lady to dominate the production, this time in the incredible form of Penelope Cruz. Her Laura is brilliant, feisty, passionate, angry and grief stricken, and when she is on the screen, frankly, you don’t look at anyone else. Shailene Woodley as Lina is a nice contrast, a very earthy, natural performer who has good chemistry with Driver as the cool, composed Enzo, you totally understand the escape that his life with Lina and their son Piero offers compared to the tension and stress of his life in Modena.

As you would expect from a Michael Mann film, this is effortlessly stylish, with the sense of time and place being perfect. I love the 1950’s Italian style in terms of fashion, and in particular the recreation of the film star looks of Linda Christian, and feel that the story works so much better by just giving us a snapshot of a life, rather than as traditional biopic trying to cram everything in. The danger of being a 1950’s racing driver is clearly apparent, and the ‘Kiss of Death‘ that was famously caught on camera, is all the more eerie and poignant here for what happens after, in a scene that absolutely pulls no punches in its horror.

Ferrari is, the first, must see film of 2024, and is definitely better for being seen on the big screen.

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