Finally Dawn, directed by Saverio Costanzo, is a film that pays homage to Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita while also telling a unique and compelling story. Set in Rome in the 1950s, the film follows a starstruck young woman named Mimosa who becomes an extra in a movie being shot at Cinecitta. She is swept along with the movie’s Hollywood stars on a wild party that lasts all night, reminiscent of the extravagant parties depicted in La Dolce Vita.
While the premise may sound derivative, Costanzo manages to strike a delicate balance between a genuine love for the movies and a more cynical view of narcissistic actors. His direction brings texture and wit to the film, creating several standout set pieces that capture the essence of the time period.
The first half of the film is particularly strong, showcasing Costanzo’s attention to detail and storytelling prowess. The opening scene, shot in black and white, immerses us in a suspenseful moment from a war movie, evoking the neorealist films of directors like Roberto Rossellini. This scene is later revealed to be a movie that Mimosa and her family were watching at a Sunday matinee, cleverly transitioning the film from black and white to color.
Mimosa, played brilliantly by Rebecca Antonaci in her debut feature, is a timid young woman who accompanies her older sister to the audition at Cinecitta. Despite not being the intended candidate for the role, she is cast as an extra and begins to navigate the world of the film industry. Antonaci superbly portrays Mimosa’s complex character, often silent yet always conveying her state of mind.
As Mimosa explores the studio, we are treated to behind-the-scenes glimpses of Cinecitta, with its grand sets and larger-than-life statues being carried across the lot. These scenes provide a sense of the scale and spectacle of the industry at the time, transporting audiences back to the golden age of Italian cinema.
One of the standout moments in the film is the hilariously bad, Cleopatra-like extravaganza titled Merneith, The Woman Pharoah, being shot at Cinecitta. Mimosa’s heartthrob, Sean Lockwood (played by Joe Keery), plays the hero in this epic production. Lily James shines as Josephine Esperanto, a stiff and artificial actress who manipulates Mimosa for her own benefit. This sequence expertly satirizes the extravagance and superficiality of the film industry, giving audiences a glimpse into the realities behind the glamorous façade.
While the film is full of impressive moments, it is not without its flaws. The second half of the film loses some momentum, particularly during a needlessly long and hedonistic party sequence that drags on for too long. The echoes of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita become more pronounced during this sequence, leaving some viewers feeling like they would rather be watching the original film.
However, the film regains its footing with a spectacular episode where Mimosa is humiliated by Josephine at the party. Through Costanzo’s direction, the tension builds as we wonder if anyone will come to Mimosa’s rescue. This scene showcases the raw talent of the cast and the emotional depth they bring to their characters.
The film concludes with a surreal ending that may not resonate with all viewers. However, just before this surreal turn, Mimosa looks in the mirror and sees a transformed person, indicating a significant personal growth and development. The accompanying change in music, from smooth melodies to thumping percussion, further emphasizes the transformative journey Mimosa has undertaken throughout the film.
In conclusion, Finally Dawn is an impressive film that pays tribute to Federico Fellini while also standing on its own merits. Despite its flaws and indulgent length, the film is full of rich textures, witty moments, and compelling set pieces. Costanzo’s direction brings the world of 1950s Rome to life and showcases the talent of the cast, particularly Rebecca Antonaci in her breakout role. While it may not surpass the masterpiece that is La Dolce Vita, Finally Dawn is a worthwhile and memorable viewing experience for any cinephile.