Amedeo Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was a celebrated painter, sculptor, and contemporary of Picasso. Modigliani the film is a dramatically overacted and emotionally inert portrayal of Modigliani's life. Mick Davis' (The Match) look at Modigliani's (Andy Garcia, Ocean's Twelve, Twisted) life takes place in 1919, at one of the low points in his life. Because he is not able to sell paintings, he has little money, and lives like a pauper. He loves Jeanne Hebuterne (Elsa Zylberstein, Monsieur N., Time Regained), but her parents object to his Jewish heritage. Modigliani has a professional rivalry with Pablo Picasso (Omid Djalili, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Mean Machine) that sometimes crosses over into a wary personal friendship.

With a running time of over two hours, Modigliani is a real chore to sit through. All of the characters cry and yell, and the actors try to infuse their roles with emotion, but the overwhelming sense from the viewer is "why?" Why are they acting like they do? And worse, what's the big fuss about everything? The strongest element of the film is what Davis tried to focus on; the relationship between Amedeo and Jeanne. Jeanne is pregnant, and her father does not want the child. Her love for Modigliani is so great that she is willing to move into his squalid home. She tries with no avail to get him to paint, yet he is moody and temperamental. Garcia portrays Modigliani as somewhat of a petulant child. When he doesn't get his way, he flies into a rage. There are times when script rises to the occasion and matches Garcia's gusto performance, but this does not happen often. Because Garcia throws his all into the role, he comes off like a ham, only because the script is so dull. The production value looks fantastic, but like Garcia's performance, probably belongs in a different film.

Davis' huge mistake was to give no sense of who Modigliani was. If somebody unfamiliar with the world of art were to walk in and watch this movie, what would he/she think? Obviously not much. This film consists of him throwing tantrums, trying to paint, and then stopping. And, he fails to give anybody a sense of who Amedeo Modigliani truly was. What drove him to paint? More importantly, what drove him to not paint? At times, Jeanne does things to try to keep them solvent. Amedeo sees them as a betrayal. If one thinks about it, the reasons seem plausible, but Davis never explains things. It's okay to make an the audience work to get a conclusion, but that's not the case here. Modigliani just throws a bunch of stuff on screen and hopes something will resonate. Plus, there's lots of emotional moments between Jeanne and Amedeo that make no sense because there is too little context. Worse, Davis piles on the melodrama. He uses the dreaded "slow clap" (where dead silence is broken by one person clapping slowly, and eventually everybody joins in) in one scene, rendering it unintentionally funny instead of serious or awe-inspiring.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 6 minutes, Rated R for some language and drug use.

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