Published Jul 12, 2013In setup, Fondi '91 takes the obvious approach to a coming-of-age melodrama, injecting a bit of nostalgia into the enterprise and hyperbolizing the associated sense of alienation by setting it in a foreign land. The titular Fondi, Italy is the backdrop for self-actualization and worldly realizations, playing as a quaint, surprisingly insular world for a team of young, New Jersey-based soccer players to learn a thing or two about themselves and each other.
Grounding this reality and providing some voiceover context is Anil (Raymond Ablack), an Indian-American playfully referred to as Aladdin by his pre-political correctness revolution classmates. His innocent, almost diffident persona is juxtaposed with, and challenged by, group aggressor and mouthpiece Michael (Kyle Kirkpatrick), whose propensity for tossing out racial slurs and profanity is matched only by his tendency to objectify and diminish women.
There's also big talking horn-dog Marco (Chris Pereira) and the effete, overly proper Joe (Thomas Wesson) rounding out the group, dividing up experiences into archetypes and perspectives.
The biggest issues with this exceedingly lethargic, mostly visionless work of tenuousness are the exceedingly uncomfortable and unrealistic dialogue and situations. Quite simply, no matter how many times these boys say, "fuck" in an effort to sound edgier, there's nothing believable about their ridiculous exchanges regarding women and sex. This is particularly evident in a scene where Marco compares the curves of a woman's "bum" (yes, he calls it a "bum") to the vortex of a black hole. The big, fake smiles and overly forced laughs do little to help this continual trajectory of awkwardness and discomfort, especially once things take a darker turn and one of the boys decides to rape the French nanny (Mylène St-Sauveur) of the local mob boss.
Because everything up to this point is so sanitized, despite the out-of-place profanity, these darker themes never feel genuine. Anil's quest of overcoming his fear of conflict is handled well-enough, culminating in an overwhelming, life-defining sense of regret when he doesn't stop the rape, but the crushing void surrounding his inner-struggle is almost painful to endure.
Still, once all four boys collectively learn more about themselves, there are some touching observations about the transience of all relationships. But this devastating realization that such vital components of our lives can quickly disappear and become irrelevant was communicated far more poignantly in the surprisingly astute mid-'90s college drama Threesome. As such, it's best just to give that one another go. (108)