Caterina in the Big City

Rated NR 2005

This is a smarter, realer, and far more interesting version of Mean Girls, from Italian director Paolo Virzi. Teenage protagonist Caterina (Alice Teghil) travels from her "hillybilly" hometown to Rome, where she and her parents move into her father's boyhood apartment. In the big city, Caterina must contend not merely with warring factions of aggressive girls at school -- the alternachicks versus the princesses, all the scions of elite Roman families -- but with her maniac of a father, a bitter member of the middle class brilliantly portrayed by Sergio Castellitto (of Mostly Martha and Don't Move). He rages against the pretensions of intellectuals and politicians alike, blaming his endless unhappiness on them, but we see what he can't -- that envy rules him. With a quiet grace, Caterina learns the lessons she has coming, but her father doesn't. The ending is a bit too easy and the conflict on the schematic side, but Caterina is a good film, with strong performances throughout.

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