This is the gem I whip out whenever someone demands to know why I can’t stand “Titanic.” At least I did back when James Cameron’s magnum sudser was the de facto standard for love stories aimed squarely at the tween demographic.
In the intervening years, it’s become more popular to use “Titanic” as the punching bag I always knew it to be, but one thing needs to be clear right from the start – I called it an Epic Fail opening night and have never wavered in my judgment.
So when the inevitable “you just hate romance movies, don’t you?” lines would start up I would use “For Roseanna” as my “nuh uh!” ticket out of the conversation.
Jean Reno, favorite fanboy heavy of “The Professional” and “Ronin” fame, goes way against type as the frantic Marcello. He and his wife Roseanna (Mercedes Ruhl) lost their daughter some time ago, and Roseanna wants more than anything to be buried next to her when her time is up. Roseanna has a weak heart and could go at any time, so Marcello sees it as his life’s mission to keep everyone in the village alive long enough that Roseanna can safely secure her grave spot.
Sure it may sound morbid on paper, but the heart of it is the extent to which a loving and devoted husband will go for his wife. “Titanic” was all flash-in-the-pan affair-driven lust. “For Roseanna” is about what it’s like 20 years later, and what can happen when two people are genuinely devoted to and love one another. The passion, joy, and fun that everyone aspires to when they say “yes” followed 3-24 months later by “I do.”
That’s why I hold this film up, because it celebrates the very thing that the real world has over Hollywood – the heights that genuine, true love can reach.
Plus, the film is damn funny. Reno is simply hilarious as he juggles his wife’s illness, their restaurant, Roseanna’s sister (who lives with them), and the lives of literally every one in the town. Of particular note is his reaction to the climax of a subplot involving an ex-con that literally leaves me gasping for air each time I see it. It’s a shame I haven’t seen him in more roles like this because he imbues Marcello with an honest and bottomless heart.
Ruhl is equally dazzling as Roseanna. She masks a deep sadness regarding the loss of her child by trying to take care of everyone but herself. She knows her clock is counting down, and intends to make the most of it before the final chime sounds. Ruhl is a rock solid counterpoint to Reno, and the two of them make beautiful music together.
Hollywood is invariably focused on the here and now. That comes from 100 years of marketing to the 18-32 demographic. But “For Roseanna” aims higher and goes about it in a smaller, quieter manner. As such, this little gem remains solidly in my Top 10.
Before anyone brings it up, yes my Top 10 tends to hold anywhere from 15-30 films at any given time. Step off.