Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Director: Paolo Virzì
Underneath, it's also a political satire in which middle-schoolcliques take on the veneer of fascists, communists and socialists, whilethe activist parents of these children have slipped so far into passionaterhetoric that they seem almost surreal.
Trying desperately to keep her head above water while navigatingthis sea of supercharged social mores is naive, soft-spoken, 14-year-oldCaterina (Alice Teghil), recently transplanted to sophisticated Rome froma provincial corner of the Mediterranean nation. Alternately harassed andcourted by gaggles of grungy hippie girls and partying sexpot popular types,what little self-identity she has is constantly being trampled by the strongerpersonalities of her class's queen bees.
Meanwhile, at home the poor girl's pride is helpless inthe wake of her bitter, blustery, unstable father (Sergio Catellitto),who fancies himself an underappreciated intellectual and can't wait toride his daughter's coattails into the socio-political circles of her friends'parents -- among them a government minister and a famous liberal activist.Honest and loving, but dim and meek, her mother (Margherita Buy) is nohelp either.
To make his political points, writer-director Paolo Virziplays loose with the way catty schoolgirls really behave (the popular girlsare inexplicably eager to welcome awkward Caterina into their fold andmold her), and this films will certainly be of more interest to those witha working knowledge of Italian politics. But young Teghil, with her soft,plain features (almost as moldable as Caterina's character) and sad eyes,gives a sweet, honest, unaffected performance that brings Virzi's themesto full bloom in the bosom of teenage anxiety -- and thus just saves themovie from its own conceit.
Whether or not "Caterina in the City" would,in the U.S., appeal more to politically minded grown-ups or young teenagegirls (who could recognize their anxieties as universal by identifyingwith Caterina) is hard to say. But I think both would enjoy it.