They say the best way to watch a new movie is to not know anything about it. That's exactly how I viewed I Am Love, although on Day 74, I chose it mostly out of necessity, since I've literally seen everything else playing within a 15-mile radius.
I'm not sure the mystery element helped enhance my final opinion. I Am Love, while interesting and well-made, is essentialy just old-school melodrama served up with some exotic flare and lots of shots of food that will make you want to eat something. It follows Tilda Swinton - usually typecast in movies as the pale-skinned ice queen - as a Russian-born matriarch of an Italian manufacturing clan (and yes, she looks as elegant and out-of-place as that sounds).
Over courses of aromatic soup dishes and deeply appetizing prawns, Swinton's character eventually falls for a young, budding chef who's friends with her sensitive, twentysomething son. Meanwhile, her reluctant offspring and all-business hubby engage in turn-of-the-Millenium politics to sell off the family business, and Swinton's college-aged daughter embraces her newfound lesbianism. Mom, who's been wilting away for years in the background, is thankfully understanding of her daughter's secret - especially since she herself is engaging in passionate lovemaking with the food boy in fields of grass, with images of bees polinating flowers thrown in to complete the effect.
If this sounds a little preposterous, well, it is, but it is done up with lovely cinematography, some fine use of John Adams music score, and an interesting performance from Tilton. Since the matriarch freely ditches her spousal and paternal duties to run off with the cook, I'm not sure we're supposed to entirely side with her, but the actress' believable transition from wealthy, sheltered housewife to liberated woman does make her flesh-and-blood real and human. The movie reminds me somewhat of Love Ranch in its depiction of a woman learning to break her chains - whether it be from a Nevada brothel or a life of Italian opulence. Here, Joe Pesci doesn't show up with a gun to spoil her fun, and Tilda Swinton does get to roll around with her new man...although since they're stuck in a dank-looking cave in one scene, I'm not sure it's all it's cracked up to be...