In this case, that season is “A Summer in Genoa,” another ambitious but failed enterprise by director Michael Winterbottom (the Oklahoma-lensed “The Killer Inside Me”). Just now hitting DVD domestically, the 2008 film has the benefit of starring Colin Firth, fresh off his Oscar win for “The King’s Speech.” That alone may trigger some initial interest, but underwhelmed word of mouth is sure to make that dissipate quickly.
He’s a new widow/single dad, thanks to his youngest daughter’s brick-stupid decision to cover her mother’s eyes while driving. (As if.) To repair their wounded souls and drain their grief, they take a therapeutic trip to Italy for the summer (hence the title), where pal Catherine Keener acts as their — and our — travel guide, doling out history lessons at every turn. Was she reading from the script or Fodor’s?
The focus isn’t on Firth’s sad dad, but his dots, one of whom (Willa Holland, “Legion”) discovers the harsh realities of becoming a woman, while the other — the murdering one (Perla Haney-Jardine, “Untraceable”) — has nightmares somethin’ awful and believes she is haunted by the ghost of her mother (Hope Davis, and that’s something I could live with), thereby causing her to attempt to cross busy streets at risk of life. (Again, as if.)
Winterbottom asks a lot of his viewers, but comparatively little to what he once asked of Margo Stilley. Google it.
Shot rough in a catch-as-catch-can style, “Genoa” feels like one of those loosely scripted affairs where the actors were given rough outlines and told to run with it, but I don’t think that’s the case, with two screenwriters credited, one of them Winterbottom. He should have spent more time crafting an actual story; as it stands, despite some perfectly fine performances, the film plays like home movies — and depressing at that — right down to gorgeous scenery, but lacking a point.
Then again, maybe the intent was, “Hey, where can we go on vacation and shoot a movie so we can write it off as a business expense?” If so, bravo, Mike … and may we see your receipts? —Rod Lott