Movie Review: ‘Ferrari’ | Moviefone

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari.'

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

Opening in theaters on December 25th is ‘Ferrari,’ starring Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Gabriel Leone, and Patrick Dempsey.

Initial Thoughts

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari.'

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

It’s interesting that ‘Ferrari’ is coming out around the same time as another biopic of a famous 20th century figure, ‘Maestro,’ and even more intriguing that both are heavily invested in the women at the center of their subjects’ lives. But while ‘Maestro’ takes an expansive look at the life of composer Leonard Bernstein, ‘Ferrari’ focuses on one brief period in the life of race car driver, team leader, and auto manufacturer Enzo Ferrari.

Director Michael Mann’s first film since 2015’s ‘Blackhat’ throws a lot at the viewer from a period and place that might now be largely forgotten, and one ultimately wonders what exactly the point is. But ‘Ferrari’ skates over its flaws on the backs of Adam Driver in the title role and Penelope Cruz as his long-suffering wife Laura, with both giving fantastic performances and Cruz in particular doing some of the finest work of her career.

Story and Direction

Director Michael Mann at the premiere of 'Ferrari.'

Director Michael Mann at the premiere of ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

It’s the summer of 1957 and Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) is facing crises on multiple fronts. The auto factory he and his wife and business partner Laura (Penelope Cruz) opened 10 years earlier is in danger of going bankrupt. He needs a new driver after one is killed during a test drive. His marriage is falling apart, as he and Laura are shattered by grief over the death of their son Dino. And he strives to keep secret a second family, consisting of his longtime lover Lina Lardi and their 12-year-old son Piero.

This is the state of Enzo Ferrari, the sports car king at the heart of Michael Mann’s first movie in eight years. And in many ways, Enzo Ferrari – played brilliantly by Driver – is a perfect subject for the director behind films like ‘Heat’ and ‘Ali’: Ferrari is pulled in multiple directions, obsessed with winning, fueled by his passions, and haunted by the things he cannot control.

One of those things is Laura, also brought to vivid life by Penelope Cruz in a masterfully balanced performance. Laura is in some ways a ticking time bomb, holding the fate of their business in her hands even as she discovers the truth about Ferrari’s mistress and second son. Yet as the film points out, she is as pragmatic and driven as her husband, and subsumes her own grief and fury in an effort to save the business.

The complex, turbulent relationship between Enzo and Laura forms the heart of ‘Ferrari,’ and its best scenes are the ones in which the husband and wife engage in verbal battle like gladiators in the coliseum (or in one case, end up jousting in a different way on the dining room table when their heightened anger turns into raw lust).

A scene from director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari.'

A scene from director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

But there is another movie here too, about racing, and how Enzo Ferrari bets the company’s future on a legendary cross-country Italian race, the Mille Miglia. Mann shoots this race and others, and even an opening scene of Ferrari speeding along a country road in his own car, in his typically immersive style, putting the viewer as closely into the car as possible. The roar of the engines, the speed of the vehicle, the dangerous ballet as the drivers navigate hairpin turns and each other – it all unspools thrillingly, even if the drivers themselves are nowhere nearly as fleshed-out as the film’s leads.

That’s one of the problems that ‘Ferrari’ faces – like other recent biopics, it throws a lot of names, faces, and dates at the viewer in a hurry, as if one is expected to read up on the period and the people before coming to the theater. It’s confusing at first, and if race car driving itself isn’t one’s bag, Mann and late screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin don’t quite make the case for why we should be interested. Seen from one perspective, ‘Ferrari’ is the story of another rich white guy who gets what he needs as everyone around him defers to ‘Il Commendatore.’

At its best, ‘Ferrari’ is a portrait of grief, destroyed dreams, and the pain of facing impossible choices, not to mention a healthy dose of the good old triumph of the human spirit. Yet despite the massive efforts of Cruz and Driver, ‘Ferrari’ never full draws us in emotionally or makes us feel what Ferrari means when he describes racing as “our deadly passion, our terrible joy.” Even after the truly shocking finish to the Mille Miglia, the film ends on a rather perfunctory note. It’s a big improvement over Mann’s last two misfires, 2009’s ‘Public Enemies’ and 2015’s ‘Blackhat,’ but it’s not quite top tier for the director either.

Related Article: Adam Driver Talks ‘Ferrari’ and Working with Director Michael Mann

The Cast

Penélope Cruz as Laura Ferrari in director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari.'

Penélope Cruz as Laura Ferrari in director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

This is really the Driver and Cruz Show from start to finish. Adam Driver goes through more of a physical transformation, graying his hair and making himself appear heavier under Ferrari’s stylish suits and suspenders, but his accent, intonations, and emotional remove – except for a few key sequences – all help paint a three-dimensional portrait of a man driven to succeed at all costs, as well as a human being who is sometimes unnervingly practical in all matters, even those of the heart. He only allows his deep grief over the death of Dino to break through occasionally, and when it does, it’s raw and painful. Yet in his scenes with Piero, he’s affectionate, patient, and loving, hinting at a more reachable Ferrari underneath.

As for Cruz, she does more with her face in one scene – her completely silent visit to Dino’s tomb – than many actors can do in a career. Laura Ferrari is a woman who has been tested by grief – over the loss of her child and the destruction of her marriage – and yet is perhaps even stronger and more resolute than her husband. From her walk to the way others treat her, it’s clear that Laura is not a woman to be underestimated or trifled with, and Cruz conveys both that and the woman’s deep heartbreak in a tremendous, often non-verbal performance.

Shailene Woodley at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Ferrari.'

Shailene Woodley at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well, although not for trying. The film’s third lead, Shailene Woodley as Ferrari’s lover Lina Lardi, is simply miscast. Woodley projects a sort of Midwest, all-American girl demeanor, which clashes jarringly with Lardi’s portrayal as an Italian woman living on a thin line between a traditional existence and a more modern, cosmopolitan one.

The other players, which include familiar faces like Patrick Dempsey and Jack O’Connell, are good in their roles but no one in the mix of drivers, mechanics, journalists, and businessmen really stands out (except perhaps Gabriel Leone as Ferrari’s newest driver, the free-spirited, headstrong Alfonso de Portago). You can mostly distinguish who the rest are and what function they serve by what they’re wearing.

Will ‘Ferrari’ Compete In The Oscar Race?

Adam Driver at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Ferrari.'

Adam Driver at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

The buzz on ‘Ferrari’ seems to have cooled quite a bit following festival season, so it’s difficult to say whether it will be a factor in this year’s Oscar race. The film doesn’t seem likely to nab nominations for either Best Picture or Best Director – despite it being Mann’s return behind the camera for the first time in nearly a decade, it’s not his best work and there are other directors who really aced it this year.

Aside from some below-the-line awards – Editing, Production Design, Sound, as well as possibly Hair and Makeup – the best chance for ‘Ferrari’ will be in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz give Oscar-worthy performances, and Cruz in particular could be a shoo-in for winning if the Best Actress category wasn’t already crowded with magnificent work from other stars. But it’s difficult to say whether either one will even be nominated at this point.

Final Thoughts

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari.'

Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari.’ Photo: Neon.

As noted above, this isn’t top-shelf Michael Mann, but the 80-year-old director still manages to get a lot of aspects of ‘Ferrari’ right. Chief among those is the casting of Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz, even though he whiffs on trying to get Shailene Woodley to mangle an Italian accent. But the relationship between Ferrari and Laura, plus the look and feel of the setting, the beauty of the countryside, the visceral power of the cars (which were much more dangerous then) – it’s all there.

What’s missing is an overall passion and underlying meaning to the entire story. Focusing on this one intense period in Ferrari’s life may be easier to do in two hours than an overview of his entire story, but we’re still left wondering why this part of the story was the one worth telling. What does it say about Ferrari himself, about the things he fought or cared for? Without that to hook us in, ‘Ferrari’ ends up feeling kind of empty.

‘Ferrari’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

R2 hr 10 minDec 25th, 2023

Showtimes & Tickets

A biopic of automotive mogul Enzo Ferrari, whose family redefined the idea of the high-powered Italian sports car and practically spawned the concept of Formula… Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Ferrari’?

In the summer of 1957, Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), reeling from the death of his son Dino, the deteriorating marriage with his wife Laura (Penélope Cruz), and his company’s impending bankruptcy, enters his racing team to the 1957 Mille Miglia.

Who is in the cast of ‘Ferrari’?

Director Michael Mann's 'Ferrari' opens in theaters on December 25th.

Director Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ opens in theaters on December 25th. Photo: Neon.

Other Movies Similar to ‘Ferrari:’

Buy Tickets: ‘Ferrari’ Movie Showtimes

Buy Adam Driver Movies On Amazon

#Movie #Review #Ferrari #Moviefone

Leave a Reply