The would-be thriller "Viva la Libertà" gives the usually compelling Toni Servillo dual roles: an enervated senator and the exuberant lookalike philosopher who fills in for him. Though the actor ably creates two distinct people, neither part is entirely convincing in this stuck-in-neutral feature, which combines a vague commentary on Italian politics with a vague portrayal of middle-aged awakening.
Twins who shared a youthful love of cinema get to perform in a real-life drama after Enrico, ineffective leader of the struggling opposition party, goes AWOL in the lead-up to a national election. Conveniently, the public knows nothing about the brother he hasn't seen in 25 years. Giovanni uses a pen name on books with such on-the-point titles as "The Illusion of Living." Fresh out of the mental hospital, he's up for the gig when called upon to maintain the illusion of party unity.
The credibility factor dwindles from there. Enrico holes up in Paris with a long-lost girlfriend (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and her family (wise-beyond-her-years tween included), and he spends time on a movie set where she's the script supervisor (fling with a much younger crew member included). Back in Rome, Giovanni lights a fire under the left wing and the electorate, spouting haikus of visionary encouragement.
Writer-director Roberto Andò, adapting his own novel, is concerned mainly with the parallels between moviemaking and politics as arts of "bluffing and genius," as one character puts it. He makes the point. But his diffuse film would need more heft, or the farcical energy of such obvious antecedents as "Being There" and "Dave," to transcend its harebrained premise.
"Viva la Libertà"
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles.