Occasionally affecting but unremarkable, the picture's emotional moments are designed to pluck local heartstrings.
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It's fair to say that men in general and ardent Catholics in particular don't come off well. Yet even they are humanized by the movie's merciful temper, and by a cast of damaged ancillary characters wearing eccentric goodwill on their sleeves.
A streak of "Cinema Paradiso" runs through this Italian dramedy - and while it lacks that film's overflowing emotion, it's filled with its own artfulness and warmth.
This was Italy's official submission for Best Foreign Film to the 2011 Academy Awards (a red flag more often than not), and, sure enough there's little here that rises above middlebrow.
Spans four decades of a troubled family with enough gentle pathos and sly humor to compensate for a less than original storyline.
Comedy and poignancy weave together in Mr. Virzì's hands, but the maudlin meter only occasionally goes into the red zone. And Ms. Pandolfi gives such an exquisitely understated performance that you don't realize until the very end that the film was as much about her character as it was about Bruno and Anna.
Italian audiences are bound to like it and the broadness of plot and appeal suggests casual fans of foreign film should, too.
The First Beautiful Thing is the kind of movie - that escapes the sick room to cavort at carnivals and eat cotton candy until the inevitable relapse.
Overall, however, it's sappy and predictable -- fun to watch, perhaps, but instantly forgettable.