Twin brothers Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo take a provocative look at the quiet horrors of suburbia in Bad Tales. This subject area is well suited for excessively dark satire, Todd Solondz has made a career out of it, but balancing the twisted nature of these films with the perfect amount of levity is imperative in creating a watchable film. Too much levity can come across as meanspirited at best or as an endorsement of atrocities at worse, conversely not enough levity results in a deeply unpleasant viewing experience. The Fratelli D’Innocenzo hope that with Bad Tales they created a film that land in the perfect middle.
The film follows the summer vacation through the beginning of the school year for a few families living in the suburbs outside of Rome. The Placido family is helmed by the patriarch Bruno (Elio Germano) who has a hair trigger for abusive tirades against his two children, Dennis (Tommaso Di Cola) and Alessia (Giulietta Rebeggiani). The Guerrini family consists of the unemployed Amelio (Gabriel Montesi) and his son infected with the measles Geremia (Justin Korovkin). The kids in these families as well as a handful of others attempt to have a normal childhood, but the passive aggressive and repressive suburbia upbring leads them into dark decisions unbeknown to the checked-out parents.
Bad Tales is a perfect example of a film that is greater than the sum of its parts. There were many aspects of the film that did not work. For a film that takes place in the heat of summer and relies on the simmering heat as a narrative device, the film inexplicitly employs a cooling color correction. This decision was distracting throughout. Additionally, for as dark as the subject matter gets at times, The D’Innocenzos offer little humor to cleanse the palate from the harshest moments. This leaves many stretches of the film to feel sluggish as things get increasingly worse. Fundamental issues like these should be a significant hinderance to the film, yet while they are still apparent, when considering the film as a whole, it works despite these issues.
The Fratelli D’Innocenzo state their claim as Italy’s provocateurs with their second film Bad Tales. While their relative inexperience betrays itself in some of their technical and screenwriting decisions, the pair show a lot of promise through their ability to deliver a successful product, issues notwithstanding. Bad Tales is a good though imperfect satire form a pair of filmmakers to watch going forward.