Written by and starring two of the leads of smash hit Manual of Love (Manuale d’amore), My Best Enemy (Il Mio miglior nemico) shares many of the problems of that charming but flawed film. While it hints at depth and is occasionally very entertaining, it never quite lives up to its promise.
Carlo Verdone’s acting certainly can’t be blamed, turning in another amusing performance as Achille De Bellis – hotel manager, adulterer and father of a wayward daughter. His life is turned upside down after he is the unlucky one to have slighted the drug abusing mother of Orfeo Rinalduzzi (Silvio Muccino). Orfeo’s quest to change his mother’s fate leads him to declare war on Achille, and the ensuing battle between them provides some amusing sequences. Strangely, a mid-film change in direction leaves much of this built-up energy to dissipate, as an ‘odd couple road movie’ takes over, and we follow their travels across Europe in search of Achille’s daughter and Orfeo’s object of love.
Muccino is once again charming, and definitely shows more range than in their previous collaboration: in My Best Enemy he is required to be both villain, victim and romantic lead, and he manages to keep the audience onside regardless of his more spiteful actions. His love for his mother is evident, and his rage and frustration understandable, and these darker features provide him with significantly more depth than ‘romantic comedy lead’ may otherwise provide.
The main flaw in My Best Enemy is its excessive length – an almost two hour film isn’t necessarily a problem, it is simply that the premise doesn’t have quite enough within it to sustain it for this period. Many scenes just continue when they should cease, and perhaps with more critical editing, the 110 minute running time may have been reduced and a more streamlined (and therefore more enjoyable) film may have resulted. The other significant problem is the change in form mentioned above – starting out as a duel with farcical comic overtones and then changing to a buddy road movie just doesn’t work. There is an uneveness that results from this shift that distracts from both components, and one wonders about the relative contributions made by each of the four writers to each section of the screenplay.
There are moments of charm and moments of anguish, and much in between. An ambitious film that never quite reaches its goal, My Best Enemy is certainly worthwhile, and, for some, seeing Silvio Muccino and Carlo Verdone bouncing off each other may be worth the price of admission.Rating: