During its opening weekend in Italy earlier this year, Where Am I Going? rivalled Star Wars: The Force Awakens, boasting triple the amount of ticket sales over the mega-blockbuster. Now, this hilarious comedy stands as the highest-grossing film in Italian cinema history.
The story takes a not-so-subtle dig at the Italian obsession of pursuing a cushy public service job-for-life (or “permanent positions” as they are called), with a generous pension and the seeming impossibility of termination, once secured. It’s kind of like tenure – but for entitled layabouts. Co-writer and lead, Luca Medici, stars as his much-celebrated comic character, Checco Zalone, a middle-aged slacker from Southern Italy who goes to great lengths to hold onto his pen-pushing position.
Zalone is the ultimate twat: he’s spoiled, privileged, arrogant, lives with his doting parents, and is fawned over by a society that prizes men in permanent public service. This is, of course, until everything he holds dear is threatened by a new government reform initiative to clean up the corruption of these “permanent positions” by creating situations where these employees are given two choices: keep the position but relocate to somewhere undesirable, or resign with a modest severance package.
Being raised under the philosophy that a permanent position is a “gift from God”, Zalone chooses to make a mockery of the government – in particular their ruthless liquidator, Dr. Sironi (Sonia Bergamasco), by happily relocating for small periods of time to harsh locations, each more horrible than the last. This is, of course, until he is sent to The North Pole, where he meets Dr. Valeria Nobili (Eleonora Giovanardi), who inspires him to become a more polite and civil human being.
Though the humour rests on Italian cultural “in jokes”, Luca Medici and director, Gennaro Nunziante, do a solid job of making the punchlines universally funny. It’s a fun and engaging piece of cinema that you won’t want to end. Luca Medici has a clear and natural ability for comedic acting. The sincerity of his performance makes the humour all the more genuine, where you will find yourself constantly laughing at his dedicated and honest portrayal of a total a-hole. Striking a very risky balance between politically incorrect humour and pointed cultural criticisms, the phenomenal success of Where Am I Going? is proof that sometimes it’s okay – and quite healthy – to take the piss, even (and sometimes especially) when it’s in bad taste. You’ll feel guilty for laughing, but that’s pretty much the point.