‘Beate’ Review: Bad Habits

In “Beate,” (“Blessed”) lingerie factory workers and an order of nuns team up against a treacherous businesswoman threatening to outsource their jobs and remodel the convent into a hotel resort. It’s an intriguingly outlandish formula for a potentially empowering tale of female collaboration. Unfortunately, this half-baked comedy from Italy dozes off at the wheel.

Spunky single mother Armida (Donatella Finocchiaro) rallies her crew of seamstresses into starting their own lingerie company when their employer abruptly gives them the boot via text message. Covertly using the factory’s equipment, they eventually hit the jackpot by designing luxury garments adorned with scraps of beaded embroidery procured from the nunnery.

The director Samad Zarmadili cobbles together this underdog story like a slapdash sitcom episode. We’re supposed to be tickled at the notion of foul-mouthed working women laboring alongside brides of Christ (assembling racy intimates, no less!), but the film remains yawningly polite and prudish. The sole provocateur is Armida’s lover (Paolo Pierobon), a second-rate harlequin who winkingly delivers salacious sales pitches to potential buyers.

Despite its attempts to deliver a message about collective power, the film hardly veers away from its leading lady, whose back story also feels random and perfunctory. Finocchiaro’s feisty performance is sabotaged by a script that scrambles her character’s motivations, while an out-of-left-field personal dilemma dulls the climactic fallout (and the entire point of the movie, really).

At best “Beate” is a curious artifact that vaguely nods at the history of Italian fashion manufacturing, the country’s Catholic heritage, and the human consequences of rampant privatization. But maybe that’s giving it too much credit.

Beate
Not rated. In Italian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.

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