By Daniel Strawhun, A&E Editor
If you were offered enough money, would you post a video on the internet of you and your partner having sex? This question forms the basis of Italian director Edoardo Leo’s latest comedy, “Che Vuoi Che Sia” (“What’s the Big Deal”). The film, which premiered in Italy on November 9, was shown for the first time in St. Louis at Washington University’s Jerzewiak Family Auditorium on April 14. The screening was part of the ongoing Italian Film Festival of St. Louis, an annual, month-long film series organized in collaboration with the Italian Film Festival USA to promote awareness of the language and culture of Italy through modern cinema.
“Che Vuoi Che Sia” is set in Milan, where the young lovers Claudio (Edoardo Leo) and Anna (Anna Foglietta) live a simple, frugal life together. Anna is a high school teacher, and Claudio is a computer engineering graduate who makes a meager living doing freelance computer repair while he tries to convince a software company to help develop his website. The website is essentially a review platform on which customers can rate the quality of work done by freelancers and independent contractors. When he pitches the idea to the development firm, the CEO encourages Claudio to crowdfund his website’s development. After his crowdfunding attempts fall flat, Claudio, while extremely intoxicated with his girlfriend Anna, records a video in which he accuses internet users of being porn-obsessed losers and then jokingly promises that he and Anna will live-stream themselves having sex if he meets his crowdfunding goal of €20,000. You can probably guess what happens next.
The video begins attracting attention, and donations come pouring in. By the next morning, Claudio’s crowdfunding campaign has already raised €4,000, compared to the paltry €80 that it had raised in the two weeks prior. Disgusted that internet users have taken his derision seriously, Claudio attempts to delete the crowdfunding campaign altogether, but an error on the website prevents him from making any changes. Helpless to do anything but watch as the video goes viral and donations increase accordingly, Claudio attempts to hide the situation from Anna, which works for a while—that is, until her students and colleagues see it.
Anna is furious at first, but when the donations steadily surpass the €20,000 target, she begins to reconsider. With enough money, Anna reasons, she and Claudio could move elsewhere and start a family, living on the donations until Claudio’s website takes off. Thus, she and Claudio decide to capitalize on the situation and begin making follow-up videos to help encourage new donations. The development firm contacts Claudio and proposes that he further monetize the campaign by making it the subject of a clickbait article.
The situation continues to spiral out of control, and soon enough, Claudio and Anna have become Kardashian-esque internet celebrities with sponsors and daytime-TV appearances. The couple find themselves at the center of a public debate, with one side maintaining that such wanton exhibitionism is shameful and disgusting and the other side asking, “What’s the big deal?”
In the end, Claudio and Anna must decide whether their conjugal intimacy is indeed priceless or just another commodity to be bought and sold.
“Che Vuoi Che Sia” is not a bad movie. The acting and cinematography are both superb, and the comedy is varied and rarely falls flat. Furthermore, Edoardo Leo’s interrogation of internet and tech culture is commendable: the protean topic is seldom addressed so directly and with such earnestness. But the film is certainly less than perfect.
One of the film’s major faults is its ill-conceived premise, namely, the notion of crowdfunding the development of a website. Crowdfunding is a strategy employed by people who want to create a tangible product—for example, a watch, a personal 3-D printer, or a movie. The creation of such products usually incurs a large initial start up cost, which would be insurmountable without the money of outside investors. Crowdfunding is essentially an informal and somewhat altruistic form of investment. In return for their money, crowdfunders usually receive the finished product before it is released to the public, plus they can feel good about helping other people realize their entrepreneurial dreams. The development of a website is not an ideal or even logical crowdfunding project because it incurs minimal start up costs and provides no tangible incentive for investors.
In “Che Vuoi Che Sia,” it is never clear exactly why Claudio feels he needs €20,000 in order to develop his website. He has a degree in computer engineering, so we can assume that he will manage the coding himself. Is the money necessary because he wants to quit his computer repair job in order to focus on developing the website? If so, that is never explicitly stated in the movie. Instead, the importance of the €20,000 is presented as self-evident and never adequately explained. Since the entire plot hinges on Claudio’s pursuit of this all-important pecuniary sum, the entire movie begins to feel gratuitous and poorly planned once the viewer realizes that the importance of the money was never justified but simply assumed in order to set the plot in motion. The €20,000 is a textbook MacGuffin.
With a duration of 105 minutes, “Che Vuoi Che Sia” is also longer than it needs to be. There is one particularly painful scene in which Claudio and Anna’s video is “remixed” into a troll-face meme by internet users. The scene, which is both unfunny and out of touch, should have been cut.
Everything considered, “Che Vuoi Che Sia” is fine for what it is—a light comedy about technology’s influence on modern life. Watch it for the jokes, or if for no other reason, the beautiful shots of Milan.