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Ferrari Review

December 29, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Ferrari Adam Driver Image Credit: NEON
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Ferrari Review  

Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: Troy Kennedy Martin
Runtime: 131 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for some violent content/graphic images, sexual content, and language.

Adam Driver – Enzo Ferrari
Penélope Cruz – Laura Ferrari
Shailene Woodley – Lina Lardi
Gabriel Leone – Alfonso de Portago
Jack O’Connell – Peter Collins
Patrick Dempsey – Piero Taruffi
Daniela Piperno – Adalgisa Ferrari
Sarah Gadon – Linda Christian
Giuseppe Festinese – Piero Lardi

Michael Mann explores the life of ex-racer and businessman Enzo Ferrari in the aptly titled character drama, Ferrari. Rather than creating a long-winded biopic offering up a Cliff’s Notes version of the life and times of the ex-racer, entrepreneur, and founder of the iconic automobile brand, Mann chooses to explore a single, crucial period in Ferrari’s lifetime, when his personal and professional lives are in total crisis. Despite the narrative’s minimal scope, Mann fails to successfully execute a compelling story surrounding the unwavering, self-driven Ferrari.

The film picks up in 1957, as a 59-year-old Ferrari (Driver) is in dire straits. His business and factory are on the verge of bankruptcy, and his marriage with his wife, Laura (Cruz), is in utter shambles. Ferrari’s wife is aware that her husband keeps mistresses, but she is still unaware that Driver sired a son with his live-in mistress, Lina Lardi (Woodley), whom Ferrari keeps hidden at another one of his properties. Lina wants Ferrari to acknowledge her son Piero (Festinese) so he can be confirmed with his father’s name. However, Ferrari is preoccupied due to his business problems and his marital problems with Laura, who is also his business partner. In addition, Enzo and Laura are still mourning the recent loss of their son Dino to dystrophy.

With time running out, Ferrari looks to push his racing team to victory with the fast-approaching epic race across Italy, the Mille Miglia. While the Mille Miglia is one of motorsports’ most treacherous races, a resounding victory could restore Ferrari’s standing in the public eye, over brands such as Maserati. It would also improve Ferrari’s status by making the brand’s cars more enticing to consumers and attracting new financing partners to save the brand from bankruptcy. To make all this happen is a huge gambit, and Ferrari is willing to put everything on the line to save his business at any cost.

Troy Kennedy Martin’s narrow scope choosing a fairly short period in Enzo Ferrari’s life is an interesting choice. It makes the plot very digestible, but also underserves the man’s complexity. As a biopic, Ferrari fails to offer a more robust, well-rounded view of the man. Driver’s miscast performance does not help matters. Driver is a tremendous actor, and tries his best with the role. However, he doesn’t create a full picture of Ferrari. Driver looks too young and virile to portray a man nearing his 60th year, and his Italian accent is unconvincing. Similarly Shailene Woodley, as Lina Lardi, is unsuccessful with the Italian accent. Sometimes actors should avoid using an accent in period pieces, even when the situation calls for it, especially if they cannot execute the accent convincingly.

Penélope Cruz delivers the best performance in Ferrari and frequently outshines Driver throughout the film as Enzo Ferrari’s bereaved wife. Considering Laura Ferrari also played a significant role in running the business and building the Ferrari brand, she has quite a bit at stake as well. Laura suffers, not only due to the loss of her son, but in the loss of her husband to another woman. She becomes the film’s most tragic, sympathetic figure as a woman who gave everything to support her husband, with very little to show for her hard work and loyalty other than personal misery. As Laura’s arc progresses, Ferrari only becomes a more unlikable protagonist.

As Ferrari seeks to navigate his delicate business dealings to keep his company and brand name alive, he also manages his racing team as they prepare for the treacherous Mille Miglia. Among them are the newly hired Alfonso de Portago (Leone), Englishman Peter Collins (O’Connell), and 50-year-old veteran Piero Taruffi (Dempsey). As an ex-racer, Ferrari instructs his drivers to push themselves harder and break later to seek victory. The motorsport drivers offer hints of a far more fascinating and compelling movie, considering they are the individuals getting behind the wheel in the driving sequences. Instead, the plot disappointingly reverts to the dull soap opera of Ferrari’s miserable personal life.

Despite the underwhelming overall plot, Ferrari boasts some impressive cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt. To Mann’s credit, the racing sequences, specifically the Mille Miglia, look expertly lensed. The film depicts the key race car sequences and brutal wrecks in vivid and brutal detail. That said, despite lavish cinematography, production design, and costume work, the editing obfuscates and hinders the runtime. The setup of Ferrari’s personal life is confusing because the opening act implies that Laura is already aware of Enzo’s mistress and their illegitimate son. There is a sequence where the movie cuts back and forth between Ferrari and Laura going to the bank when she learns the secrets, and it’s executed in a dull, listless fashion rather than riveting and suspenseful one. Daniel Pemberton provides a relatively minimal, nondescript score that fails to leave a memorable impression.

While Mann does succeed in presenting Enzo Ferrari as a complicated individual with a turbulent personal life, Ferrari fails to showcase the man’s genius and venerable character traits. Ferrari features some exceptional technical qualities and a welcome overachieving performance by Penélope Cruz. Unfortunately, the narrative’s small scope works more as a dull condemnation of the man behind the legendary brand name instead of a fascinating character piece.

Ferrari is playing in theaters now.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
While Penélope Cruz delivers an excellent performance as Laura Ferrari, Adam Driver fails to meet her level of quality in a story where he needs to take the lead. Driver looks and sounds miscast as Enzo Ferrari. While Mann's film does succeed with some impressive racing sequences and lavish production elements, his overall direction and Troy Kennedy Martin's screenplay fail to provide a better, more fascinating exploration of the man behind the legendary automobile brand.