Giuseppe (Cinema Paradiso) Tornatore's film Malèna is a paean to the beauty of the eponymous Sicilian woman, played by Monica Bellucci. As such, it is also an ode to La Bellucci.
And that, my friends, is about all it is.
Plot (such as it is): Malèna is the town sex bomb, turning heads wherever she goes. Her husband is killed in combat. She starts seeing other men and is accused of adultery and shunned by the town's women. Young boy, meanwhile, like all the men, is obsessed with her and fantasizes of being with her.
The story is cute enough, albeit with a bitter, mean scene at the end of the second act that plays out like a bit from some cheap chicks-in-chains exploitation flick.
I mean, the film is wonderful to look at. That old nostalgic World War II Sicily vibe is great. Though I can't help but feel not enough is done to make you care enough for the characters other than Malèna herself. This is a shame, since we are reminded often that they are (misguidedly, maybe) supporters of Italy's fascist leader Mussolini.
Other than that, the film plays out like a farce. It's funny enough. But even at just 90 minutes (I saw the Miram-axed version, shorn of 17 minutes, apparently), it feels 40 minutes too long. The plot of the first hour could easily have been squeezed into 20 minutes -- and it would have been all the better for it.
Monica gets herself into various degrees of undress, though, and that, I fear is the only reason this film was bankrolled. But the thing is, you can see a scanty Monica in most of her films, so you really needn't sit through this one.
Tough to score, this one, because it was at least funny. (Funny to me, a non-Italian. My Italian wife was embarrassed by its depiction of her people... and by one of their own!) But it was also too long and too slight of substance. I'm gonna take a generous stab at 57 out of 100.