About two-thirds of the way into the World War II romantic drama Captain Corelli s Mandolin
, people weren t only laughing, they were leaving. Maybe Nicholas Cage s Italian accent which wasn t so Italian was to blame. Or maybe it was that this film felt as long as the war. Or maybe it was the distinct lack of grounding of the drama s time and terror.
Cage stars as Captain Antonio Corelli, an officer of the Italian army unit that is occupying the Greek island of Cephallonia. There, Corelli falls for the beautiful local Pelagia (Penelope Cruz), who has just given up on her betrothed, Mandras (Christian Bale), whom she hasn t heard from since he left to fight. Meanwhile, Dr. Iannis (John Hurt), the village s resident physician and Palagia s father, exposes Corelli to his daughter when he offers him a room in their house. Corelli uses his mandolin to charm her.
Palagia, torn between Mandras and Corelli, finds that she can no longer wait for Mandras. So, as they used to say, whoop, there it is
. The turning point in the story seems all too sudden. One minute Pelagia is enraged by the captain s drunken behavior; the next the two are sharing some erotic together-time.
Almost every aspect of Captain Corelli s Mandolin
is annoying. Most of Cage s lines start out Italian enough but end up utterly American (Cruz sounds believably Greek). And despite the eventful warfare, the movie makes oh-so-slow progress emotionally confused progress at that. At the same time that Greeks are grief-stricken about what is yet to come in the war, Italians are singing on the beach as if on vacation. During one beach scene, the camera stops, then zooms in on five or six topless women playing in the water. War is hell.