TIFF Review: Loro
Loro tells two stories. The first is about the rise of an ambitious man trying to become a political player through the liberal use of sex, drugs, and money. He basically bankrupts himself desperately trying to catch the eye of the other key figure of the film: one of the world’s most scandal-ridden international figures (in the pre-Trump era, anyway) Silvio Berlusconi.
The first half of the film is dedicated into detailing the excesses of the former, while the second half devotes itself to the private life of Berlusconi as he seeks to find a path back into power. The insight into the famously narcissistic political player in combination with the astute performance of Toni Servillo in the lead role are the only things that make this film remotely worthwhile, as it frequently descends into a self-indulgent mess.
Riccardo Scamarcio does his best to bring life to the role of Sergio, a social climbing wannabee politico, but there’s no way to avoid the fact that the character is charmless and inherently unlikeable. There is an intention to satirize the Italian elite’s extreme womanizing (or at least that is the charitable view I am willing to bestow upon the film), but if that is indeed the case, it misses the mark widely.
Rather than condemning or even gently mocking the powerful men who cruelly treat the women in their lives like chattel, it can’t help but glorify their behavior. Sergio embarks on a Herculean task to build a roster of beauties to take part in a non-stop party he holds in a rented villa with sight lines to Berlusconi’s private retreat. His enjoyment of beautiful women is well known, and Sergio believes that if he can be seen as a potential purveyor of such delights into the old man’s life, he will be well-placed to gain power and influence moving forward.
The women are a means to an end, and fill the screen in a way that feels inherently explotative. They are not people in the eyes of our main character, just a collection of body parts that will guarantee his entrance into the higher eschelon of Italian political society, and there is nothing in the writing or direction that encourages the audience to view this particularly negatively.
Loro is a film filled with characters utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities. It’s a testament to Servillo’s skill as an actor that we feel even a vague sense of pity for Berlusconi’s pathetic old man desperately trying to cling to the things that made him feel virile and powerful. It’s no secret that the film drastically improves in the second half of the film, once we are free to abandon the charmless Sergio and delve more fully into the psychological workings of Italy’s former prime minister.
But despite this, the film is far too long and meandering, seemingly unsure of exactly what it most wants to focus on and what exactly is the point of all this. The result is a major misfire from director Paolo Sorrentino, who received nearly universal acclaim for his 2013 film The Great Beauty.