Mascarpone vacillates between insight and one-dimensionality, but its luscious aesthetic character keeps its lightly recommendable.
Gay Italian drama Mascarpone certainly knows how to appease its target audience, opening with a shot of handsome lead actor Giancarlo Commare in various states of undress before transitioning to a locker room scene set at a local gym where one spectacular derriere in particular gets substantial screen time. It’s true, there is certainly no shortage of sex and nudity in Mascarpone, a coming-of-age tale about a 30-year-old man desperate to find himself. Antonio (Commare) is a self-described trophy wife who married husband Lorenzo (Carlo Calderone) while still in high school. A degree in architecture going to waste as he spends his days lounging on the couch and baking various sweet treats, Antonio is given a rude awakening when Lorenzo announces out of the blue that he is love with someone else and wants Antonio to move out ASAP. Depressed and adrift, Antonio rents a room from sassy free spirit Denis (Eduardo Valdarnini), who inspires the aimless young lad to “find his light” before becoming engulfed by yet another lover’s shadow. The specifics of this process include going to work for a hunky baker named Luca (Gianmarco Saurino), attending pastry school, and sleeping with as many men as possible. The bulk of Mascarpone, then, includes watching Antonio navigate the treacherous terrain of Grindr, which involves hooking up with a bevy of Italian hotties but avoiding commitment at all costs. Turns out, this is easier said than done, as Antonio ends up falling for hunky news reporter Thomas (Lorenzo Adorni), who is ready to offer him the world. But is the world what Antonio wants? And what about Luca, who seems a little too jealous of Antonio’s relationships?
Mascarpone goes no place particularly surprising, with even a third-act twist proving as obvious as it is convenient. Co-directors and co-writers Alessandro Guida and Matteo Pilati keep the proceedings moving at a healthy pace, painting Italy as a beautiful gay mecca where every street corner is a breathtaking photo opportunity straight out of a Hallmark flick. But it’s in its characterization that the film unfortunately falters most, with Antonio coming across as a self-entitled asshole who spends the majority of the film’s runtime whining about “setbacks” that most individuals would view as incredible opportunities. Lorenzo, meanwhile, is painted as such a one-dimensional asshole that it makes it nearly impossible to sympathize with Antonio’s fragile emotional state, while potential love interest Luca scans as borderline possessive. That leaves poor Thomas, who is such a saint that you have to wonder if finding one’s self is all that great if it means sacrificing such a fantastic guy. The one aspect this film does get right, however, and with pinpoint accuracy, is the online gay hook-up scene, which is rendered here with such raw authenticity that it’s clear the filmmakers have intimate knowledge of the entire enterprise. This extends to one particular aspect of Antonio’s journey of self-discovery, mainly his aforementioned “slut phase.” It’s not pretty, but more than a few will find this particular plot point both uncomfortably and painfully relatable, and it’s in these moments that Mascarpone transcends its melodramatic tendencies and finds something akin to emotional honesty; if only the rest of the film had followed suit. Still, for those simply looking for a surface-level portrait of beautiful gay Italian men who like to make out with one another, you could do worse than the calorie-laden pleasures contained herein.
Published as part of Before We Vanish — May 2022.