Poveri ma Ricchi, written by Fausto Brizzi and Marco Martani, directed by the former
This may be the ultimate case of “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – Hamlet.
You could find this film endearing – well, parts of it anyway – or just be overwhelmed by the preposterous, tacky, obnoxious passages wherein a family of nouveau riche gets to show off their newly gained fortune – at the lottery no less – and disdain the established aristocracy of the wealthy who have taken new, trendy habits, such as riding the bicycle instead of the latest Ferrari.
The premise of the comedy is simple, the Tucci family wins the big prize at the national lottery and they now have one hundred million euros, whereas up to that magic point they have had little or no funds to cash on…indeed, when they take out their first one hundred and fifty euros from the cash machine, they celebrate like they have just received the biggest diamond in the world.
Psychology studies have looked at the effect that money, wealth has on people - and what better circumstances than looking at…lottery winners, who are average men and women, mostly from the middle class, who gain speedy access to a fortune, overnight.
The research, which seems to be confirmed by the Tucci family, demonstrates the Hedonic Adaptation Effect which purports that we desire material things – especially in the kind of consumerist society we live in today – but we adapt to them almost immediately after they have been acquired.
The lottery winners experience a boost in their reported wellbeing levels, which lasts for a few months, but after that period, the new rich return to their set point of happiness, which is explained in more detail in the brilliant Stumbling Upon Happiness by Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert.
The Tucci are very worried when they find they are rich that the villagers would come to them to loan money, make them poor again and they experience other Hedonic Adaptation side effects, travelling at night to the cash machine, so that they do not have any witnesses…it has been announced that the winner comes from this small Italian locality, therefore people suspect each other
Even the priest, at confession, which is supposed to be the ultimate secret, sacred encounter, asks people from the village if they have won the big prize, interested to convince them to contribute, how to spend the money…which the Tucci use to get a big screen television of something like 3 meters by four.
When they try to get this monster home, on top of an VW van, they encounter a neighbor, who evidently tries to see what they hide in the huge case, on top of the car, and when he sees it, they say that they are embarrassed to confess…they have stolen it so that old grandmother – who may die any moment now – could enjoy her soap operas.
They have to throw the television in the river, because that is the only way to get rid of the annoying man, who would otherwise inform the police, or God forbid, learn the fact that they actually have millions to throw around.
Which is exact5ly what they start doing, when they decide to travel to Milan, where their rich comrades live, enter the expensive hotel, where the asking price for a large room – to harbor about ten Tuccis – is about sixteen thousand euros – to which they reply that they want to spend the night, not buy it.
A race is started, in which they compete for the top spender place, with Danilo Tucci aka the amusing, charming member of the famous, legendary family Christian de Sica buying a few Ferraris- therefore, when he parks in the forbidden zone, he tells the police officer who warns him that the car would be removed that he has plenty…
There are passages that can seem over the top, overwhelming, with members of the “fortunate” family coming across as obnoxious, melodramatic, tacky, so preposterous as to make one change the channel or walk out of the cinema theater where this is showing.
However, overall, this production seems superior to the one on which it is based -The Tuche Family, reviewed here: http://notesaboutfilms.blogspot.com/2017/08/note-on-les-tuche-aka-tuche-with-jean.html
Having stated that there are scenes that could be hard to take, one must insist on moments of mirth, if not absolute hilarity, such as when they stage a winter holiday celebration, for which they pretend to be more than poor, so destitute as to become amusing…
One of the members of the extended family becomes infatuated with an intelligent, interesting woman, who works at the hotel where the lottery winners spent their first moments in Milan, but she hates the rich, hence he needs to play the poor man, without any financial resources.
She insists she wants to spend time with his family, they arrange a special gathering during which, when she pats the head of the son, they start talking about the lice – remember they are dirt poor when they exchange gifts, these are so miserable as to become hilarious.
Just as they play this Comedy of Paupers, they appear on television, as the channels go back on what happened in the soon to end year, they review the case of the poor family that becomes rich, their adventures and the media coverage of the experiences…
They commit many extravagant, ridiculous acts, some of them merry, others perhaps meant to be a lesson on the value of money versus relationships, To Have as opposed to To Be, such as the time when they sign a postmodern painting, which was supposed to be white, with the exception of the name of the famous author and need to pay in excess of two million euros for it.
There is also an interesting passage where their new butler – if that is the politically correct name for him – explains that the rich in this year of our lord have different tastes, many of them are vegan, exercise, use bicycles more than Aston Martins, are involved in charitable acts…