As if puberty wasn’t exhausting enough for Giovanna. Bad grades, a questionable self-image (“Am I beautiful?”), and so many questions about how the world around you works. But as the 13-year-old right at the beginning of the Netflix series La vita bugiarda degli adulti (“The lying life of adults”) hearing this sentence, she finally no longer understands the world. “She’s starting to resemble my sister more and more,” says her father one afternoon when the parents are discussing Giovanna’s miserable school performance. “Vittoria?” replies the mother. She’s a monster. “Nella, she is her spitting image.”
Naples in the nineties. Giovanna’s parents, left-wing intellectual high school teachers, live in Rione Alto, in the city’s upscale district. But just because they live upstairs doesn’t mean that there aren’t just as many lies here as downstairs, where the “monster” Aunt Vittoria lives – and Giovanna’s father comes from, but he skillfully denies that and we’re on the subject. In the six episodes, Giovanna wanders between up and down, between parents and aunt, between past and future. And, so much can be revealed: She won’t find safety anywhere.
Two years ago, Maggie Gyllenhaal adapted Elena Ferrante’s novel The Woman in the Dark into a film. La vita bugiarda degli adulti, available on Netflix under its original Italian title only, is another novel adaptation by the best-selling Italian author. Five years after the four volumes of “My Brilliant Friend”, in which Ferrante describes the friendship of two girls in Naples in the fifties and then over several decades and which have sold millions of copies, “The Lying Life of Adults” was published in 2019. Although a complex female character is also the focus here, the plot only spans about three years. In the end, Giovanna is 16 years old.
It is not easy to translate a literary story, which is mainly based on doubts, thoughts and considerations, into a series. Although the gloomy images match the thoughtfulness and inner turmoil of the Ferrante characters, the production company Fandango was also responsible for the series implementation of “My Brilliant Girlfriend”. Still bumps La vita bugiarda degli adulti directed by Edoardo de Angelis in many places. Sometimes time runs backwards for no reason, some scenes are unnecessarily long, there is a lot of looking and little talking, and then the soundtrack bursts in quite suddenly and whitewashes the plot. The fact that you stay tuned is due to the excellent play of the two protagonists.
As Giovanna, Giordana Marengo wears a mullet hairstyle and grunge clothes and plays them wonderfully varied. Sometimes high-spirited, shy, insecure – and outrageous when she begins to appear as cheeky as her aunt. She is fascinated by her, who just doesn’t know what to do with herself. Loud, impetuous, spirited and never at a loss for a word, Valeria Golino (last enchanting in The Morning Show seen on Apple Plus) Vittoria herself into a doubtful, torn, loveable character. And it’s worth seeing how these two unusual women find each other, approach each other, repel each other in between and yet love deep down. Vittoria finally gives Giovanna a crucial tip: “You have to watch your parents very closely, otherwise you’re lost.” Giovanna promptly notices at dinner that her mother is patting her best friends’ father under the table.
Everything is unclear, everything is in question, and who knows if Giovanna herself is always so completely honest. “Why did you tell me lies?” she once asked her aunt. And she replies: “Because they were beautiful.”
Six episodes, on Netflix.
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