Toni Servillo as Silvio Berlusconi in a scene from "Loro."  

Silvio Berlusconi is a wealthy Italian businessman who rose to become that country’s prime minister in four governments. A crass populist, womanizer and deeply corrupt, but a strongman credited for economic gains, Berlusconi, now 83, is, to say the least, a controversial figure in Italy and internationally.

“Loro” is Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino’s highly imagined take on Berlusconi -- so much so that the movie opens with a disclaimer that much of the picture is fictional, even if it does depict some real events.

Folding in some Fellini-esque elements, including a sheep keeling over in the air conditioning of Berlusconi’s Sardinian villa to start things off, the picture is something of a sleazefest, reflecting the character of Berlusconi -- who doesn’t make an on-screen appearance until about a third of the way through the movie’s two hour, 38 minute running time.

After the sheep dies, the picture shifts to southern Italy where escort provider Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio) is hatching a plan to worm his way to Berlusconi  and hopefully get a piece of the corrupt cash flow.

He’s rounding up a couple dozen slim, sexy models (far different words are used to describe the women in the subtitled script) and plans to rent the villa across the lake from Berlusconi’s, intending to lure him in. Suffice it to say, it eventually works.

But before that happens, the movie, which is set in the early 2000s when he was out of power, shifts to Berlusconi plotting a return -- his aim is to flip six senators, by whatever means necessary, and again become prime minister. 

But he is also dealing with his much put-upon wife Veronica Lario (Elena Sofia Ricci), who he tries to win back with diamonds and guitarists singing “their song” but only further alienates her.

Berlusconi is played Toni Servillo, a multiple European award-winner, who with slicked down, dyed black hair and his tailored casual outlooks, looks very much like the man he is playing.

And his performance channels the public Berlusconi while he delivers a convincing tour de force as an egotist who wants to control everything and everyone around him, believing he alone can run the country and, simultaneously, his enterprises that include a cable television conglomerate.

It’s impossible to watch “Loro” and not think of Donald Trump, another businessman who became his country’s leader while enmeshed in sex scandals and accusations of corruption.

That’s especially true in a scene in which Silvio steps in dog poop, then tells his grandson he did not, giving the boy a lesson in the nature of “truth” -- any assertion that is made with the right “tone of voice and conviction.”

But nothing should be read too deeply into “Loro,” a disjointed film that admits it's more imagination than “real.”

Its tonal shift from the hedonistic nudity and drug-filled opening segment to the more intense look at Berlusconi’s one-on-one dealings with Veronica and his political associates is abrupt enough to feel like two different pictures.

And, after it happens, folding Sergio and the writhing near naked women back into the picture feels like a overwrought device to establish the fact that Berlusconi is old and is a womanizer -- hardly revelations.

“Loro” has some captivating elements in its production and is carried by the consistently watchable Servillo. But, by its conclusion, it feels like an exploitation picture with high ambitions that falls short on both accounts.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.


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