La riffa [The Raffle] (1991) Widowed Wares For Sale October 8, 2021 08:00
Money can't buy happiness, and beauty is only skin deep. Two age old adages that hold water, but in the case of La riffa (The Raffle), money can get you out of debt, and beauty can get you the money to do it.
Monica Bellucci is Francesca, wife of a wealthy businessman who gets a call late at night that her husband has died in a car accident. Possibly worse than the emotional trauma of losing him is when the facade of their lifestyle and relationship is quickly revealed to her. Francesca is immediately informed of the amount of debt her husband accumulated over the years with his business dealings, totaling in the hundreds of millions, debt that she is now responsible for. On top that she learns he'd been cheating on her with an older (much less attractive woman no less) and that on the night he died he had been coming back from her place. Worst of all, everyone she considered to be her "friends" knew about it and never said a thing to her.
At first Francesca seems to deal with everything in stride, selling off all her possessions, getting a normal job, living in an empty apartment, but learning of her husband's infidelity and that she was the only one blind to it became a breaking point for her. That's when she devised the plan of the raffle. Now single, and broke, her only asset was her looks and she quickly finds herself as the object of desire of many wealthy men in town, so she decides to capitalize on this. The plan is to raffle herself off, whoever wins gets her for four years, and she gets 100 million dollars for each of those years plus expenses for her daughter and gifts. The raffle will be limited to 20 participants, carefully chosen, at an entrance fee of 100 million dollars. Whoever wins gets the lump sum of all the entrance fees totaling 2 billion (less a percentage to her lawyer), and her to do whatever they please with.
The idea is an instant success and it turns out everyone who joined were friends of her husband, even her husband's mistress joins the raffle. It's at this point she begins to have second thoughts about following through with this and asks her lawyer to call it off and return the money, but he says it's too late to back out now. Things get even more murky when she hits a scrawny little man with her car and after nursing him back the health finds she can't get rid of him. Even worse she finds herself falling in love with him, but in only a few days she'll be raffled off to one of her husband's friends.
I was surprised to find The Raffle to be a pretty well put together film, while the concept is definitely a little over the top, the story is well paced, written and executed. What I liked was how the film took a rather depressing situation for the main character and interjected a well balanced amount of comedy, sometimes at the expense of other characters and sometimes simply through the surroundings. For example one of the opening scenes where Francesca is taken to identify her husband's body and she's escorted through this huge asylum type building to a large empty room with one body, and it turns out to be the wrong body with her husband's toe tag, then they travel back down the corridor to a another huge empty room with another body. The ridiculousness of it all was quite amusing.
Monica Bellucci's once again gives a solid performance, she's got it all and continues to prove that not only is she drop dead gorgeous but she has some acting talent as well, unlike many models who attempt the career jump. Bellucci manages to be seductive, strong and yet emotionally vulnerable at the same time. It's unfortunate that she has seemed to be a little typecast in her career based on her looks and less recognized for her solid acting.
What I found most surprising about The Raffle was the twist at the end which for some reason I didn't see coming. I thought it was a really good way to end the film. Overall, The Raffle is surprisingly entertaining. Most reviews write it off as odd or unfunny, but I think they failed to understand this film is not meant to be your typical Italian comedy (which I've seen my fair share of and typically am not a fan) this is much more of a "dramedy" or dark comedy, somewhere between Ostinato destino, which Bellucci would star in following this film, and the much more dramatic Vita coi figli.