“Wondrous Boccaccio,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, is loosely based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic “The Decameron.” The Paolo and Vittorio Taviani-directed film centers around a group of friends who flee Florence in 1348, where The Black Plague is raging. To escape the death that has engulfed their reality, the friends inhabit an abandoned villa in the hills where their imagination is the only thing to keep them occupied. “Wondrous Boccaccio" sets out to tell five stories filled with love, lust, loss and loyalty, but instead falls flat.
The first story is about loyalty. When Catalina (Vittoria Puccini) becomes ill with the plague, her husband, Niccoluccio Caccianimico (Flavio Parenti), won’t even give her a kiss goodbye -- out of fear of catching the plague -- before she is brought to the country to die. Her husband left her for dead, but Gentile Carisendi (Riccardo Scamarcio), an admirer, nurses her back to health. When given a choice between her husband and the admirer, Catalina chooses to stay with Gentile.
In the next tale, Calandrino (Kim Rossi Stuart) is the town simpleton who everyone pokes fun at. Bruno (Simone Ciampi) and Buffalmacco (Lino Guanciale) play the ultimate trick when they convince Caladrino he is invisible when he picks up a “special” black stone. Before he gets back to town, Buffalmacco and Bruno tell everyone about the trick, and Caladrino acts like a clown, thinking he cannot be seen.
The third story tells the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers Ghismonda (Kasia Smutniak) and her father’s apprentice Guiscardo (Michele Riondino). When Duke Tancredi (Lello Arena) finds out about the affair, he kills Giuscardo and Ghismonda kills herself.
Following Ghismonda’s sad story, the film's tone rises with the story of Isabetta (Carolina Crescentini). The beautiful nun gets caught having an affair in the middle of the night. When the other nuns snitch to the fierce Abbess Usimbalda (Paola Cortellesi), they find out she hasn't been true to her virginity either.
The final story is about Frederico degli Alberighi (Josafat Vagni), a man willing to do anything for the woman he loves, Giovanna (Jasmine Trinca). A beloved falcon is Frederico’s only possession and it’s also the only thing Giovanna’s son wants. Frederico hopes to win Giovanna's affection, but it comes at a price.
In the end, the film comes across as bland and lacks impact.
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