Review: Melissa P. (2005)

Melissa P. is an italian movie based on the autobiographical novel 100 colpi di spazzola prima di andare a dormire or One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, by Melissa Panarello.  Although the movie doesn’t quite follow the book, they both tell the story of the sexual awakening of an Italian adolescent girl, Melissa, and her exploration of everything that sex means and has to offer, while trying to find real love.

Maria Valverde plays Melissa P. and she does a terrific job. Her performance is great, even though Melissa from the movie is different from the book.  She comes across as obedient, uncertain, submissive at times,  while in the book she’s the dominant one.

Another good performance comes from Geraldine Chaplin, who plays Melissa’s grandmother Elvira and whom you most likely remember from movies like Chaplin and Doctor Zhivago.

The way the movie’s shot, you’re sometimes under the impression that the characters know they’re being filmed, because they’ll look right towards the camera when passing by or delivering a line. But they all come to emphasize certain key moments of the story.

The production designer did a wonderful job of matching the color of the wardrobes with the scenery and the overall feeling you get throughout the movie. Everything falls together nicely every time. The movie’s shot in warm lights and colors, except when Melissa’s narrating, when everything is cold and detached as to go with her state of mind. There’s a moment towards the end,  a scene shot underwater, that’s significant for the ending of the story as well as especially beautiful.

Although there are is a fair amount of sexual depiction in the movie, it’s tame enough and shot with taste.

With all that said, there are bad sides to Melissa P. aswell. Inconsistencies with the script, things left unexplained, characters with no development whatsoever and a bit stereotypical (eg: Melissa’s parents).

If you like Maria Valverde as an actress, then you should definitely watch this movie, in spite of all bad reviews out there you might read, because she’s simply too good in it.

Also, if you’ve watched the movie and liked it, you should try reading the book too. It’s even more raw, crude, dramatic, sexual and sad, but good.

Cast: Maria Valderde, Geraldine Chaplin, Letizia Ciampa, Primo Regianni, Fabrizia Sacchi.

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