“Ferrari” is perfect vehicle for Driver

Ferrari (Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley) – Enzo Ferrari was a complicated man. Adam Driver is exceptional (though hardly recognizable) as Ferrari, the Italian race car driver and automobile manufacturer who designed the legendary sports cars bearing his name. Set in 1957, Ferrari chronicles the difficulties he had selling enough cars to finance his racing obsession.

On the racing circuit, Ferrari’s cars were fast but not always safe, resulting in deaths and a second-place reputation to Maserati. While the competition to produce wins fueled Ferrari, there was some reluctance on the part of the rich and famous in purchasing his vehicles despite their unparalleled beauty. He was deep in debt.

His wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz), was his active and savvy partner in the company. But their marriage was in tatters in large part due to the death of their young son years earlier. That tragedy changed Ferrari, sapping the joy out of his life. As played by Driver, he is sullen, serious, and driven. For Laura, their son’s death created a deep void. Cruz plays Laura as morose, bitter, and formidable.

On top of all that, Enzo has an entire other family with Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) with whom he has had an affair for more than a decade. They have a son, Piero, whom they both adore. Almost everyone knows about this except Laura, who eventually uncovers the deception.

Ferrari has generated a lot of Oscar buzz and deservedly so. In the capable hands of director Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider, Ali), Ferrari has a plethora of racing scenes featuring exceptional photography, pulsating sound, and a couple of gruesome accidents. This film is tailor made for action and car enthusiasts although you’ll have to put up with the human story, too.

Driver has proven himself to be an extraordinarily versatile actor. From fantasy films to romcoms, he has played heroes, villains, historical characters, and ordinary guys. Playing almost two decades older than his 40 years, Driver plays repressed, restrained, and unrepentant. It’s a very measured performance.

With a strong supporting cast and a gripping story that puts the audience into the cockpit, Ferrari is an impressive biopic that only disappoints if you are hoping for an expansive life story rather than a short slice of Enzo Ferrari’s life.

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