Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Double Hour (opens in Cleveland July 15th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[THE DOUBLE HOUR opens in Cleveland Friday July 20th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Aside from the apparent suicide witnessed by chambermaid Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport) at its very beginning, the first act of THE DOUBLE HOUR (La Dopia Ora) plays like a light romance film. Sonia attends a speed dating session where predictably most of the potential mates are losers and boors. The exception is Guido (Filippo Timi), an ex-cop turned security guard. Guido is a regular at these get-acquainted sessions, often hooking up with partners for casual sex afterward. That's at least partly his intent with Sonia as the two go for a stroll once the session is over, but even the cynical Guido senses a real connection between them.

Guido and Sonia part without getting physical, just as Guido happens to notice that the time is 23:23, a “double hour” when both the hour and minute are the same. He explains to Sonia his superstition that such times are sort of like shooting stars in that you get to make a wish. He admits, however, that he's never actually had one of his wishes come true.

Guido continues his courtship of Sonia a few days later by taking her to the mansion he guards. At one point he turns off the alarms so the two can share a quiet moment in the surrounding woods. This is where THE DOUBLE HOUR takes a turn into crime film territory as a group of armed men wearing masks show up and force Guido to let them into the mansion. From here on out, things get weird and the truth becomes hard to pin down.

Yes, this is another one of those “what is reality?” movies. At this point I've seen so many of these things that it would almost be more of a twist to just tell a straight forward story. Still, Director Giuseppe Capotondi and screenwriters Alessandro Fabri, Ludovica Rampoldi, and Stefano Sardo manage to add a few fresh touches to the scenario. It also helps that the focus as more on the characters and their relationship than in trying to trick the audience, and the strong, believable performances from both leads contribute substantially to that end.

Still, just as in films like INCEPTION  or JACOB'S LADDER, one's reading of THE DOUBLE HOUR ultimately rests on interpretation. The fantasy elements are so subtle that one can opt for a more concrete, real world explanation if one wishes, but personally I find fantasy more rewarding in this case. I think at least one, maybe even both, characters make wishes on a double hour that come true. But as is often the case in stories about wishes, having one granted doesn't necessarily result in happiness, or at least the kind of happiness the wisher envisioned. 3 out of 4 stars.

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