REVIEW: Toscana (2022)

Anders Matthesen and Cristiana Dell’Anna in Mehdi Avaz’s TOSCANA – Photo: Netflix.

Directed by Mehdi Avaz — Screenplay/Story by Mehdi Avaz & Nikolaj Scherfig.

Thus far, Netflix has tried, and tried again, to make the kind of Danish hit series that would rival foreign language series hits like Germany’s Dark. They haven’t succeeded yet, as most of their series just come and go without making much noise. Shows like The Rain, Equinox, Chosen, or Elves weren’t really it, even though some of them had their moments. The Chestnut Man is, in my mind, still the best Danish straight-to-Netflix series that has come out.

However, when it is released on Netflix internationally on June 2nd, the revival of the Danish political fiction series and international hit Borgen — with its fourth season subtitled Power & Glory — could still amass a large following outside of Denmark (the season actually completed its run on Danish television a little while back, and I may write about it in the future). Toscana, however, is the first Danish Netflix Original Film, which is of course a big deal for the streamer and for the film’s director. Unfortunately, it is a film that I can’t recommend because there really is nothing fresh about it.

Mehdi Avaz’s Toscana follows a well-regarded but short-tempered Danish chef named Theo (played by Anders Matthesen) who has just lost his father. Notably, Theo didn’t have a great relationship with his father. So, when his father’s business in Tuscany is revealed to be a part of his inheritance, Theo only really considers selling it. So, with the hope that he can expand on his restaurant business back in Denmark, Theo travels to Tuscany, where he meets Sophia (played by Cristiana Dell’Anna), an Italian woman, who cherished his father and his business. By connecting with Sophia in Italy, he may start to look at things in a new light.

If you think it sounds familiar, then rest assured that you’re not alone. Avaz’s film borrows from several much, much better films, such as Jon Favreau’s Chef. But the film really feels like more of a feel-good Hallmark movie built on cliche after cliche. As a Dane, I wish I could tell you that Avaz’s film successfully added something new to these types of films, but he hasn’t. I’d love to be able to tell you that it’s really funny or that the chemistry between its leads is really strong, but that just isn’t the case. The most notable thing about it is that every move it makes has been seen elsewhere. You see the story beats coming from miles away. One element that does work, however, are the many shots of food. All of the food looks appealing, and people who really enjoy that kind of ‘food porn’ may get something out of its many montages (frankly, there is an over-reliance on these).

What people outside of Denmark almost definitely don’t know, however, is that there are some really famous Danes in this film. Its surprisingly unfunny and disappointingly unconvincing lead is played by Denmark’s most popular stand-up comedian, Anders “Anden” Matthesen. To add to that, the Danish pop star simply named ‘Christopher’ plays one of Theo’s subordinate cooks, and he adds absolutely nothing to the film other than being a distraction to Danish viewers. Ghita Nørby, a beloved Danish actress, plays Theo’s mother, and, towards the end of the film, she has my favorite line of dialogue in the film. But, in general, she has very few scenes.

Ultimately, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this one. Frustratingly, there’s nothing new under the Tuscan sun here. The first Danish Netflix Original film, Mehdi Avaz’s Toscana, is a well-meaning and harmless but cliche-ridden and forgettable snooze led by a miscast Anders Matthesen.

4 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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