‘Ferrari’ takes too narrow a turn; ‘Poor Things’ is flat-out crazy

Adam Driver immerses himself and the audience in his role as Enzo Ferrari.

Jeff Mellinger Screen Shots(Jan. 14, 2024) — Enzo Ferrari was a hard-headed man. Resistant to outside help with his company, he kept his focus on racing.

He was also a family man. Yet his devotion to the Ferrari name exposed his biggest weakness: fear of failure.

In Michael Mann’s hard-charging new film “Ferrari,” Adam Driver disappears into the titular role. Despite not learning a whole lot about anyone else, we get a great performance from Driver, excellent cinematography and some of the best on-screen racing ever filmed.

Penelope Cruz plays Enzo’s wife, Laura. She’s the only other character given deep screentime, so we really get to know the depths of her frustrations about being his wife.

Early in the film, she answers the phone repeatedly to people asking for her husband or trying to make her aware of a Maserati driver in town to break a Ferrari record. She boils over, knowing her husband is out with some other woman (although they have an agreement) and fires a gun two feet from Enzo’s head after his return.

Cruz eats it up as her character seethes throughout. However, this does not endear her to the audience. Laura comes off as grating and irritating, despite her circumstances.

Mann and Driver also make it hard to root for Enzo. We are not supposed to identify with him so much as pity him. He owns a fabulous company and has a wonderful family (two in fact) but cannot commit the necessary resources to any of them.


The film does not go into Ferrari’s past enough to help us understand his overwhelming desire to win races. Ferrari puts winning and competition above all else and lets it consume him.

Filming racing scenes on a track must be incredibly difficult. However, once the beats of the race are planned, camera set ups and choreography fall into place. It is another story when a race takes place across city streets and throughout the countryside. Mann’s filming of the famous 1957 Mille Miglia race at the climax of the movie is nothing short of spectacular: day shots, night shots, straightaways, twisty backroads and one jaw-dropping, heartwrenching wreck.

“Ferrari” is well more than two hours long, but I could have used another 30 minutes. The drivers get very little attention. Why cast Jack O’Connell and Patrick Dempsey and barely use them?

Mann is known for his excellent director’s cuts. Here’s hoping for a three-hour version of “Ferrari” on Blu-ray. A-

An experiment in family dynamics

Bella (Emma Stone) and Duncan (Mark Ruffalo) explore the mad world of Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘Poor Things.’

Whether it be with “The Lobster,” “Killing of a Sacred Deer,” “The Favourite” or his latest, “Poor Things,” no one can accuse director Yorgos Lanthimos of being unoriginal. His films are wholly unique and often outright bonkers.

With a career performance from Emma Stone, “Poor Things” fits perfectly in Lanthimos’ oeuvre.

Lanthimos’ third film, “Dogtooth,” examines the lengths an irrational father will go to keep his adult children in a perpetual state of childhood. Lanthimos returns to this theme in “Poor Things” with the character of Godwin Baxter, a craggily, perfect Willem Dafoe.

Having been experimented on mercilessly by his own father, Baxter, or God as he wants to be called, believes it is his life’s duty to experiment for experimentation’s sake. Half dog, half chicken animals roam his estate.

For his coup de grace, God took the brain of a child and put it in the head of an adult woman he named Bella (Stone). She can barely walk, wets herself and has the language of a 3-year old. Yet, she learns at a rapid rate and soon wonders about the outside world.

God encourages a union between her and Max (Ramy Youssef), a medical student brought on to document Bella’s day-to-day progress. However, Bella feels the need to sow her wild oats. She jets off with scoundrel Duncan (a deliciously awful Mark Ruffalo).

Unfamiliar lens

Lanthimos has always been able to look at life through a lens unfamiliar to most of us. How else to consider the plot of “The Lobster” – a dating service putting people with their absolute perfect match gives couples 45 days to prove they belong together before turning each of them into a pre-determined animal.

With “Poor Things,” Lanthimos knows it will be jarring to focus the audience’s lens through the eyes of a childlike adult experiencing sex (lots of it), fine cuisine, travel, high and low society and love for the first time. It certainly is a tough watch at times, but the humor is fairly consistent and allows the viewer some relief.

The costume design and art direction are absolutely top notch. Taking place in an alternate turn-of-the-20th Century, “Poor Things” sports colors, clothes and machines from other time periods. The sky in every outdoors scene is awash in pinks and oranges, and smoke emitted from smokestacks is a bright green. Overhead motorized trams and bizarre automobiles fill in the background, so there is always something to look at.

Lanthimos’s films are certainly not for everyone. Yet if you like films that hew toward the outlandishly bizarre, “Poor Things” will do just fine. A-

Winter TV roundup

“Slow Horses.” (Apple+) I’ve gushed over “Slow Horses” for the past couple of years. Although Apple+ has a lot of great stuff, signing up just to watch this show is worth it. Season 3 debuted in December, and it delivers. Gary Oldman is at the top of his game, as usual. The rest of the cast has been thinned a bit, allowing us to spend more time with those who are left. The plot is more intense and suspenseful than ever, while remaining quite simple. You will not find much better than this to watch.

“The Curse.” (Showtime) Only a few episodes in, I can say that this is the next generation of awkward television. In the vein of “The Office,” we have very flawed characters who are as likely to make us cringe as they are to elicit laughs. Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder play a good-natured couple who suffer from not understanding their whiteness. They want to make a reality show based on their improvements of a Native American community in New Mexico. Yet, they are met at every turn with various forms of resistance that they cannot, or will not, comprehend.

Upcoming TV

Jodie Foster and Kali Reis take the lead in HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country,’ released on Jan. 14, 2024.

“True Detective: Night Country.” (HBO) Jodie Foster and Kali Reis are the detectives this fourth time around. Season 1 is one of the best seasons of television this century. Season 2 may have been a drop-off but is not nearly as bad as everyone thinks. Season 3 is a welcome return to form. Here’s hoping that season 4’s visit to the polar night brings vibes of Season 1.

“Echo.” (Disney+) Disney has gone to great lengths to let everyone know that “Echo,” a spin-off of “Hawkeye,” is absolutely not for children. Bringing back favorite actors from the Netflix version of “Daredevil,” “Echo” has a lot going for it. Only loosely related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it should be easily consumable by those tired of, or clueless about the MCU.

“Masters of the Air.” (Apple+) The producers of the all-time great miniseries “Band of Brothers” bring us a story about pilots in WWII. Austin Butler and a host of other good-looking actors will surely make this expensive show well worth watching.

“Walking Dead: Ones Who Live.” (AMC) Finally, we get to find out what happened to Rick and Michonne after they left the main show. Shows like “Walking Dead: World Beyond” and “Fear the Walking Dead” have teased us here and there about what the couple might have been doing. I hope this show expands the wider universe so we learn more about how the rest of the United States has been faring since the zombies took over.

“La Brea.” (NBC) It’s the third and final season of this show, so I might as well finish it out.

Jeff Mellinger

Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord.