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Crash and Burn

Alberto Novelli

Three Floors (2021)

Three decades ago, Nanni Moretti was dubbed the Italian Woody Allen on these shores. Fortunately, he reinvented himself as a Serious Filmmaker two decades ago with “The Son’s Room,” way ahead of Mr. Allen’s public fall from grace and Hong Sang-soo embracing his own Korean Woody Allen designation to the point of self-parody. Lately however, Mr. Moretti seems to be stuck in a rut. There’s a point in his new film, “Three Floors,” where he takes a literal beating. Enough! It’s something the Mr. Moretti from “Dear Diary” might have winced at. (Incidentally, he took to Instagram to let everyone know he winced at “Titane.”)

“Three Floors,” an adaptation of an Eshkol Nevo novel, is about the ill-fated ways in which lives are intertwined in a Roman apartment building. About to go into labor, Monica (Alba Rohrwacher of “Happy as Lazzaro”) stands in front of the apartments in hopes of catching a ride. The first car that comes along runs over another pedestrian before crashing into the building. The inebriated driver, Andréa (Alessandro Sperduti), cannot persuade his parents (Mr. Moretti and Margherita Buy), both respected judges, to exert influence to maneuver his case – hence the beating! Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio), whose wall is damaged from the crash, suspects that his daughter, Francesca (Chiara Abalsamo; later Giulia Coppari and Gea Dall’Orto), may have been victimized by the senile neighbor Renato (Paolo Graziosi) – all while Andréa himself preys on the Renato’s underage granddaughter, Charlotte (Denise Tantucci). Monica, whose husband, Giorgio (Adriano Giannini), is perpetually absent, is confounded by the sudden appearance of his estranged brother, Roberto (Stefano Dionisi).

Paul Haggis’s “Crash” seemingly set off a general fatigue regarding these ensemble pieces about deliberately interconnected lives, because they were all the rage for a while and then we stopped seeing them. Evidently, Mr. Moretti didn’t get that memo. “Three Floors” itself isn’t bad as far as this type of movie goes, but it’s getting a bit of a fermented backlash against the limitations of that conceit. To be sure, Mr. Moretti isn’t doing anything new or interesting with this or fixing the inherent contrivance.

Perhaps “Three Floors” is bearing the brunt of the criticism because of its overall grim tenor – none of the plot lines have positive outcomes, not even after the story skips five years to get us caught up on the aftermath. Dora, Ms. Buy’s character, is the only one to emerge with some sort of hopeful outlook. Before her new lease on life, we really spend much of the film’s runtime wondering if there’s an end to this bottomless pit of negativity.


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