Beautiful Rebel Movie Review: Cinzia TH Torrini’s biopic ticks all the right boxes without feeling too rushed

Beautiful Rebel Movie Review: Cinzia TH Torrini’s biopic ticks all the right boxes without feeling too rushed

Letizia Toni, as the adult Gianna, puts in a lead performance of considerable heft, matching the intensity of the voice and soul being laid bare onscreen
Beautiful Rebel(3 / 5)

Based on charismatic musician Gianna Nannini’s autobiography (Cazzi miei), Beautiful Rebel (Sei nell'anima) charts the origin story of one Italy’s most famous rock singer-songwriters. Cinzia TH Torrini’s deft biopic handles the highs and lows of Gianna’s journey, starting from her complicated childhood in Siena to her rise to fame and all the excesses that go with it. In between all of the larger-than-life rocking, as it were, are the small personal tales that stay with you. The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes revealing, but they never once fail to lend insight into the woman behind the public persona. Early clashes with her father light the rebellious flame that will come to be associated with her being. This great spirit cuts both ways, as you’d imagine, being responsible for her most powerful songs and stage performances as well as her spiralling addiction and mental health problems. Everything falls into the standard rockstar’s playbook: doing things on their own terms, living life to the fullest, unafraid of consequences, unable to be contained, a series of complex relationships, falling off the wagon, dusting yourself and getting back up. Gianna Nannini experiences it all, and how, but it is the music that keeps her going. It’s the one constant in her existence. Ask many famous singers or bands from anywhere, and they’d likely agree that if it weren’t for the music, they wouldn’t have survived.

Director - Cinzia TH Torrini

Cast - Letizia ToniSelene CaramazzaMaurizio Lombardi, Stefano Rossi GiordaniAndrea DeloguChristian Stamm

Streaming On - Netflix

The songs from Beautiful Rebel are haunting, to say the least. Nannini’s emotionally powerful delivery and deep lyrics take you straight to the heart of the character. Letizia Toni, as the adult Gianna, puts in a lead performance of considerable heft, matching the intensity of the voice and soul being laid bare onscreen. The complicated bond Gianna shares with her father reveals much about her spirit, in general. Having grand plans for his daughter, Danilo Nannini (Maurizio Lombardi) pushes her to become a tennis player. She has the talent but not the inclination. Her joy comes from singing. And though she exhibits interest from an early age, the choice of such a profession is perpetually belittled. Are you going to become someone famous musician, like this person or that, is her dad’s stock response. In between tennis matches and music lessons, she dreams of leaving the town of her birth and living life on her terms. That she is going to become a singer, a renowned one, at that, is decided…in her head, at least. She moves out of Siena on her motorcycle and takes up residence in a small hotel. The friendly sex workers who live in the adjacent rooms aren’t just good company, they become part of her dream. One of them even manages to get Gianna access to a piano. In an audition tape for a music competition, the answer to one question catches you off guard. “What are you afraid of?” the interviewer asks. Half-smiling, looking straight at the camera, she says, “Madness.” After some missteps and tragedy, she makes it into the office of influential record producer Mara Maionchi (Andrea Delogu). It’s a funny scene where the hard-nosed Mara is brought to tears by Gianna’s intense rendition of “Dead By Self-Inflicted Abortion.” She asks, in all seriousness, “Did I sing so badly that I made you cry?” Two people make a strong impression on her in the struggling years: serious romantic interest Carla (Selene Caramazza) and photographer-friend Marc (Stefano Rossi Giordani). Her temperamental nature notwithstanding, they stay in her life in one capacity or another. Gianna’s early breaks don’t unfortunately lead to commercial success, and her spiral becomes imminent when the record label threatens to drop her.

What makes this biopic so engaging is that it is real. Encapsulating a substantial period of a famous singer’s life in a two-hour film poses a real challenge. Cinzia TH Torrini’s effort ticks all the right boxes. It covers uncomfortable and difficult subjects (especially the one with respect to child sexual abuse) through flashback and corresponding lyrics, providing valuable insight into Gianna’s psyche. Another aspect that impresses is the bond she shares with a variety of people: her father (and family), her friends and romantic partners (potential or otherwise), her record label and the people she collaborates with. There’s a space reserved for everyone. Credit for this goes to the writing, and how it manages to show so much without coming off as rushed. Gianna’s association with the influential German record producer Conny Plank and his family is one to savour. That they have her best interests at heart (not just her musical ones) speaks volumes. It has its heavy moments (as it should), but at the heart of it, Beautiful Rebel is a triumphant feel-good story about a girl who was told she couldn’t become a singer. The same girl/woman went on to show everyone just how much could be achieved if one were to listen to their inner voice more.

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