The Godmother

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godmotherDefinitely not to be confused with the upcoming film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as Colombian drug-queen, Griselda Blanco, this is likely a much gentler piece of work. Jennifer (Anderson) in an English teacher, happily married to a Romanian accountant, Radu (Bucur) and with a young son, David (Iamcu). But her life is turned upside-down when her husband is arrested, for it turns out his main job was keeping the books for the area’s top mobster, Spanu (Alex). To prevent him from testifying, Spanu sends his goons after his accountant’s family, and Jennifer has to rely on her wits to survive. Eventually, she decides the best form of defense is attack, and sets up her own criminal organization, with some unlikely help in the shape of the local cops, some of husband’s book-keepers, and a former mobster turned monk.

It is, of course, all entirely implausible: in reality, a scenario like this would end in only one way, and would be neither gentle nor amusing. Fortunately, Spanu is largely incompetent, to the extent that it’s inconceivable how he could ever have made it to the top of the criminal underworld, and his minions are little better. Still, given that conceit, I spent most of the movie with a goofy smile on my face, watching “fish out of water” Jennifer coming to terms with her situation, and the oddball characters who surround her – the gangster monk, who spends most of the time drinking heavily and/or floating in the pool, was probably the most amusing. Though I do feel this missed a trick, not having a heroine whose character was located somewhere between Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee, with a steely determination and implacable sense of propriety, e.g. scolding the villain for his poor table-manners. Still, Anderson brings a peppy likeability to the role. though the wrap-around section, concerning two street kids apparently finding her diary, doesn’t fit well with anything else.

It’s filmed in a mix of Romanian and English, which is a bit flaky at times, since some of the characters are clearly not acting in their native tongues. However, the script holds the threads together nicely, and even manages to find a way for the heroine to triumph – such an obvious conclusion, it doesn’t even count as a spoiler – that is not entirely contrived or impossible. Without giving too much away, it involves “turning” an operative sent into her camp, with the help of a strange medical student who sells body-parts on the side. While I’d like to have seen more action, that isn’t the real focus; however, it does show occasionally surprising invention, that allowed this to skate around its weaknesses.

Dir: Jesús del Cerro, Virgil Nicolaescu
Star: Whitney Anderson, Velea Alex, Stefan Iancu, Dragos Bucur

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