Greetings again from the darkness. Even In this age of “helicopter parenting” it’s disconcerting to see such flagrant over-protectiveness as that perpetuated by Maria Bello’s character on her daughter Lucy. For film lovers, it’s even more disheartening to see how the mother uses “happy ending” movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life to create the social bubble that results in 20 year old Lucy having never been kissed, and having no concept of reality (outside of what she has seen in movies).
Contrary to what that set-up would have us believe, director Taron Lexton’s film is actually less Coming-of-Age and more ‘Welcome to the Universe’, and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery is quite enjoyable to behold. Co-written by Nancy Cartwright and Peter Kjenaas, it’s the ‘based on a true story’ of Ms. Cartwright’s own personal journey prior to her nearly 30 year run as the voice of Bart Simpson.
Lucy (Ksenia Solo, Black Swan) is off on an interview-gone-wrong when she stumbles into a Fellini film festival. She is immediately entranced by the obscure imagery and often less-than-happy endings. In fact, she connects with the films in such a manner that she is inspired to travel to Italy and meet with the Maestro himself. Ms. Cartwright’s real life motivation stemmed from watching Fellini’s La Strada (1954), and she instantly saw herself in Gelsomina (played by the spirited Giuletta Masina).
Her travels through Italy are filled with ups and downs, and Lucy crosses paths with good people and bad. It’s her first true life experience and we are along for the ride. The structure of the story is such that as Lucy is discovering life, her mother (Bello) is back home in Ohio slowly losing her battle with cancer while being nursed by her straight-talking sister (Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe from “24”). Such contrasting elements would fit right in to a Fellini film.
At some point, most movie lovers experience the awakening that occurs when graduating from pleasant, feel good family movies to more esoteric and philosophical cinema. Fortunately, this awakening typically occurs before age 20 and does not require an international trip or dying mother to allow us to grow as a person. Ms. Cartwright’s willingness to share her story makes for interesting film-making and one of the more unusual coming-of-age (or Welcome to the Universe) twists that we’ve seen on screen.