Home » Why Car People (And Everyone) Should Skip The Ferrari Film Entirely

Why Car People (And Everyone) Should Skip The Ferrari Film Entirely

Ferrari Movie Ts1
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It’s a big-budget Hollywood movie about a legendary Italian brand that caters exclusively to the rich. It stars Adam Driver and features some fine automobiles of the 20th century. What’s that? You’re excited to go see House of Gucci! Oh, heavens, no. We’re going to see Ferrari! Yes, I know. I’m sad too.

You could be forgiven for thinking a movie named after the most storied car brand of all time would be, well… about cars. A car movie, even! But no. As an automotive enthusiast, and as a journalist, it’s my duty to warn you off this soporific mess of a film. I’m not kidding, I swore an oath and everything.

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Spoilers below, I’m not holding back on this dumpster fire.

The story of Ferrari takes place in 1957. The movie gets going with a slow, plodding scene of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) leaving the home of his second family. Don’t be mislead by the shots of clutch pedals and shifters, we’re not about to see some action. Instead, it’s all character establishment, showing Ferrari’s fractured relationship with his wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz). There’s telephone conversations about race drivers and a track record, and Laura pulls a gun, but we’re ten minutes in and the pacing is positively glacial.

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We then see the Ferrari patriarch is on his way to visit the grave of his first son, Alfredo “Dino” Ferrari. This isn’t a spoiler, because the movie starts in 1957, after his death. We’re treated to seeing Driver and Cruz gurn and deform their faces in what comes across as a desperate lunge for an Oscar. Enzo monologues about his grief for his son and his friends lost on the racing circuit decades before. Laura attends the grave separately and stares silently past the camera for a full 34 seconds. That’s a realistic representation of a mother’s grief, sure, but it’s incredibly tedious on screen. Especially at just fifteen minutes into the film before we’ve even connected with these stale, hardnosed characters.

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Cruz plays a distraught mother, but that was obvious in the first ten seconds of this shot. Going past half a minute was overkill.
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Driver is less convincing as an Italian man in this piece, versus his brilliant performance as Maurizio Gucci. He also stumbled over pronouncing “Stirling Moss” in the right accent. I can’t do that either, but I’m not getting paid seven figures to try.

What you’ve seen already is, sadly, what the movie is almost entirely about. It’s not about cars and racing and victory and passion. It’s about a sad old Italian man with family problems. Yes, there’s a racing storyline in there, somewhere, but it’s really just a backdrop to Enzo trying to figure out how to have his cake (his mistress) and eat it too (Uh, respect his bastard son. It’s not a perfect metaphor).

The film chose to cover a very miserable period in Ferrari’s life, but also faked a bunch of things to make the movie more compelling. It tries to shoehorn in the battle for Ferrari’s future, where the Italian company courted Fiat and Ford as potential backers to save it from debt. But that didn’t happen until the 1960s, years after the film is set. You don’t have to stick to the exact historical record to make a good film; Ford v Ferrari showed that. The difference with that film is that it was actually entertaining.

Indeed, Enzo’s quest in the film was bequeathed upon him by an accountant. He’s told to win the 1957 Mille Miglia to buoy the company’s value and help attract outside finance. So, we get to see L’Ingegnere himself in the trenches with the team, right, developing and perfecting the race cars to claim victory over evil Maserati? Arguing about manifolds and valve springs and how to best tackle the complexities of the Mille Miglia course?

Uh, no. Why would you want that? Wouldn’t you prefer long, tedious scenes where Enzo gets told he should name his bastard son “Ferrari” and he just sits there quietly deferring any real decision? Because that’s what you’re getting!

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The trailer might make you think this is a movie about cars and racing, with lots of scenes like this.
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Instead it’s mostly Laura getting very angry in a series of dimly-lit rooms. 

Indeed, that’s the problem with the whole film. Enzo doesn’t really do anything! He wanders around a track, laments his dying marriage, and shuffles some papers around. He basically just floats from scene to scene looking sad while letting events swirl around him. He doesn’t work on cars, he doesn’t make any real resolutions with his wife or his mistress; he barely even negotiates for the future of his supposedly beloved company. Maybe that’s the point, maybe that’s what the director was going for. But I tell you what, it’s incredibly dull to watch.

The film has a couple of enjoyable moments. Enzo’s exhortations to his drivers to stick the boot in and not yield to the Maserati cars? That’s a nice moment. The drivers writing letters to their families before the 1957 Mille Miglia is also a good highlight of what motorsport was really like. The film even almost gets us to like a couple of characters; Alfonso de Portago as the star driver, Piero Lardi, Enzo’s illegitimate son.

It all culminates in the big race, with Ferrari deeply invested in claiming victory ahead of Maserati. There are some great action scenes in which the cars do battle on gorgeous Italian mountain roads. It feels a long time overdue given how little action we’ve seen in the first hour of the film. Even these are spoiled somewhat, though, seemingly by a commitment to historical accuracy. Both the Ferrari and Maserati cars wear near-identical shades of red and similar three-digit race numbers. The only way you can really tell them apart in motion is by the metal trident on the front of the Maserati cars.

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Unless you’re really big on your 1950s racecars, it’s really hard to tell the Maseratis and Ferraris apart at a glance.

Director Michael Mann does one thing of note, and it’s the tragic crash that would bring the Mille Miglia to an end after 1957. Nine spectators died, including five children, when de Portago’s Ferrari had a tire failure and speared into a telephone pole and into bystanders. de Portago himself died, having been severed in half in the crash, while his navigator Edmund Gunner Nelson also perished in the wreck. It’s portrayed clearly, viscerally, and in slow motion, showing the audience the very real trauma of what happened. If anything, it’s too much, but it’s an unignorable reminder of how brutal motorsport could be in those dangerous days. I won’t post it here, and you won’t see it in the trailer—it’s simply too gory.

The film wraps up shortly after, with enough dialogue to tell us that the company will be fine going forward. Despite de Portago’s death in the crash, Piero Taruffi brought home victory for Ferrari with all the glory that followed. Enzo’s wife gives him full control of the company and money to bribe the press to shut up about the accident. Her one condition is that he doesn’t give the Ferrari name to his illegitimate son before she passes away, just as in real life—his son was not named Piero Ferrari until after Laura’s death in 1978.

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I might sound bitter, and I might be missing the point. But I think I can be forgiven for thinking Ferrari should actually have been a decent car film. Even then, I’m also not opposed to movies about messed-up Italian families screwing up and having arguments—I loved House of Gucci! Mostly because the characters in that film actually seemed to have an emotion beyond “-__-” and you know, actually did things and affected the outcomes of their own lives.

All in all, the film gets one star from me. Whether you’re a car fan, or just a normie that likes a good tale, don’t waste your time. Lewin out.

Image credits: Roadshow Films via YouTube screenshot

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Ron888
Ron888
3 months ago

Thanks for the heads up!
I must admit i get a bit of pleasure when a film is lambasted so heavily.Your gurn insult was especially hilarious.

If i’m honest though,this film sounds less frustrating than Ford v Ferrari.A fake drama i can easily ignore.I’m happy to never watch it. A badly stilted epic though? THAT is unforgivable.
Yes FvF is still fun but it would have been much better without that badly overacted Ken Miles worship theme.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
3 months ago

If I can watch Jeanne Dielman, I can certainly take 34 seconds of looking at the lovely Penelope Cruz.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
3 months ago

You know whats not a car movie? The art of racing in the rain, its Marley and Me with a guy who races cars

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
3 months ago

Oh god it sounds like they made a film rather than a movie.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
3 months ago

The parts that stood out to me were the CGI, which was so bad that it turned tragic scenes into comedy, and how bad some of the attempts at sounding Italian were. It appears this movie and The Fast And The Furious must be in the same universe because they seem to have the same laws of physics. Shailene Woodley sounded like a California valley girl who was instructed to emphasize the end of a word every now and then.

Of the performances, I think Cruz did the best. She put a ton of talent into that character.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
3 months ago

You mean Castelottis’ body achieving geostationary orbit wasn’t real?

Elduchey
Elduchey
3 months ago

Bummer man. Sounds like they pulled the same bait and switch routine that they did with Maestro.

Elduchey
Elduchey
3 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Maestro is “biography” on Leonard Bernstein (probably the greatest American composer ever) played by Bradly Cooper. I went into it thinking I’d get to see some amazing stories about his creative genius, what I got was a story about a selfish bi-sexual and about five minutes of music… Real bummer.

JMJR
JMJR
3 months ago

The first on screen death of a driver was so quick, cartoonish and goofy that I felt it disrespected the life that was lost and left a bad taste in my mouth. The crash during the Mille Miglia by contrast was drawn out, realistic and gory to the point it made me uncomfortable. I went to see the movie with my wife, my sister and her fiancé and none of us liked it.

Pitdoggie
Pitdoggie
3 months ago

Like all movie reviews, this is based on opinion. As such, the title of the article warns to not watch at all. As someone who worked in racing, follows history and knows the brand, this was an excellent look at the very specific time period of events that happened around Enzo. As such, it was a very well put together film.’

For the author to tell everyone to avoid it, misleads the individuals who will enjoy it, especially those with interest in the brand and this period of time.

A balanced review that stated “I did not like it as a car guy” would have been a better title.

Studdley
Studdley
3 months ago
Reply to  Pitdoggie

“Because I disagree with the author’s opinion and have a highly specific background that would allow me to understand the background movie more, you need to change the title because I am unbiased.”

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago

Ford vs Ferrari screws up a lot of the history, too. They make it look like Ferrari was a tiny sole proprietorship when Ford walked in and that was the company was for sale was new to Fiat, when, in reality, Ferrari went public in 1960 (3 years before Ford’s attempted takeover, meaning they weren’t dealing solely with Enzo, but an army of attorneys representing Ferrari’s other shareholders) and Fiat didn’t buy 50% of the company until 1969 (6 years after the failed deal with Ford and after the GT40 exploits), so Enzo Ferrari did not play one company off the other in real time the way the movie makes it appear

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I am fortunate enough to have known some of the people involved in Ford’s racing efforts with the GT, some who were portrayed in the film and a few others who should have been. I also knew a couple of people who were very knowledgeable about the inner workings of the failed Ford-Ferrari deal.

For those reasons, I didn’t see “Ford v. Ferrari.”

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

This is why I like superhero movies.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

About all anyone ever said about Beebe (to me, anyway) was that he was not exactly Mr Congenial. He seems to have deserved the bad rap he got.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

i hate it that they were racing with safer barriers and making auto club look like daytona. For the love of god edit out the scoring pylon.

Emmy McConnell
Emmy McConnell
3 months ago

This movie was very boring and this is a quote quip: “ Indeed, Enzo’s quest in the film was bequeathed upon him by an accountant. ”

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
3 months ago

When I heard that Driver was playing Enzo, I was excited. I was looking forward to an entertaining history of Ferrari… the prewar “Scuderia” days with Alfa, founding his own company in the rubble of postwar Italy, the various falling-outs and conflicts that led to friends and clients becoming bitter rivals. Focusing on one brief, unhappy window in the life of a great, if not necessarily a good, man is a waste.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

Ya wanna eyetalian Familia cinema? Yourself gotta watcha da Sopranos

Autojunkie
Autojunkie
3 months ago

Everyone knows the history of Ferrari and his cars. There was even a really bad movie made once before. The take on this movie was great. Rather than show us some bring timeline and fake inspiration of how and why he built the cars he did, we instead see inside the often quiet and mostly private life during a snapshot of probably the most important and pivotal part of his life.

Personally, I thought the movie was very well done and well told. I’d recommend it to all car people and non-car people alike.

Much like World’s Fastest Indian was not about an Indian motorcycle and racing, but about a man following his dream ignorantly and passionately in a way that would inspire anyone who watched. Shelby was not about Shelby Automobile and his racing career, but rather his relationship with Ken Miles and how their friendship dynamic that went above and beyond the builder/racer dynamic. Ferrari hit a the mark of being a movie that gives us a look inside the complicated person that Enzo the man was and how some personal conflicts drove his ideas and his goals.

Be glad that it wasn’t another House of Gucci or Lamborghini, which were both pandering low budget bullshit. I hope more movies like Ferrari get made.

Clusker Du
Clusker Du
3 months ago

I thought House of Gucci was the best (unintentional) comedy Ridley Scott’s ever made. It was like Driver, Gaga, and Leto were acting in three completely different movies. It was a glorious mess. I didn’t think Ferrari was that bad. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be the flip side to Ford vs Ferrari and it was more about the interpersonal dynamics of a broken marriage brought by the loss of their son. If anything, I wish they expanded on that aspect a bit more.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Clusker Du

House of Gucci really felt to me like a movie that should have had a $30 million budget instead of 75, like it was somehow trying use the inflated production costs to force itself to be grander than the script, performances, and direction would ever really allow

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
3 months ago
Reply to  Clusker Du

Is the comedy unintentional? I thought the whole point was to be a tabloid-ish look into the lives of the rich, and just how gloriously fucked up they are. Quite enjoyed it for that actually.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago

Expecting anything else would have been folly, Lewin. The real story would have been interesting for gearheads, but they hardly put movies in the Boffo Box Office category. Sex, Drama and Gore sell tickets, even if the truth is, shall we say, reimagined for maximum entertainment value.

My only quibble with this review is that the car numbers follow the Mille Miglia system, which assigned numbers based on starting time. I believe they are even accurate, at least in the case of the Portago car.

Much as I have enjoyed a couple of movies built around racing — Grand Prix and Le Mans were both enjoyable — I had no interest in seeing “Ferrari.” I was pretty sure it would be a hack job. I could go for a reissue of “Death Race 2000,” though….

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

“I could go for a reissue of “Death Race 2000,” though….”

I just rewatched that for the first time since…I dunno when. I’d forgotten how much gratuitous 1970s nudity was in it.

(Come to think of it I might have seen it an edited for TV version.)

If you haven’t seen it yet give “Mother, Jugs and Speed” a try. Its got quite the cast.

Last edited 3 months ago by Cheap Bastard
ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

It might have been Sylvester Stallone’s finest performance, though!

Aside from the gratuitous nudity — is nudity ever gratuitous? — it had had lots of awful dialogue and some truly weird VW-based customized kit cars.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Was Stallone in MJ&S OR DR 2000? Seems MJ&S had Cosby, Raquel Welch &a no name.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Ol’ Sly gave a sensitive portrayal of “Machine Gun Joe Viterbo” in DR2K.

Add to that the richness of David Carradine’s character and the charms of Mary Woronov, and I can’t understand why the pic didn’t bring home a few Oscars….

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Was that sarcasm?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Which? But probably

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Harvey Keitel a “no name”?!@#$%?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

Didn’t remember him.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Depends on what you’re looking at. Some things can’t be unseen.

Last edited 3 months ago by Cheap Bastard
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I’ll second the Mother, Juggs, and Speed recommendation. Odd and cheesy and surprisingly fun. I should watch it again…

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Didn’t they do a reissue of death race? I think Carradine starred in the 1st one then some annoying pretty boy in the reissue

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

If they did, I didn’t see it. Hollywood has often proven that originals are best.

Would you want to see a Tesla-driving pretty boy in a re-do of “Bullitt”? I think NOT!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Yes I checked the original came out in the 70s when HBO was just starting out starring Carradine. . But a remake in 2008 starring Jason Statham.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Hollywood won’t truly hit bottom until they remake “Johnny Dark!”

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

How about Howard the Duck?

DadBod
DadBod
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

True story: my uncle brought Simone Griffeth to our house for dinner when I was a kid, she told us about working on Death Race 2000.

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago

I watched it, Lewin is correct on all counts. The only thing I’ll say is the crash scenes are a cheesy CGI mess. The one mentioned with a tire failure sees de Portagos car bounce of a sign, launch 15ft into the air to hit the top of a power pole, and then dart across the road falling, to do 4 perfect barrel rolls over a comically organized set of men women and children. The post crash scenes showing the death and destruction are haunting, but the crash scene itself is so comically awful and unrealistic it had me laughing out loud, and completely broke my immersion.

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

See the first half of that crash at the 2:00 mark on the trailer, its… bad

Cake_taco
Cake_taco
3 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

I’ve seen this complaint a lot and whether or not you think they got the physics 100% correct (I agree it looks slightly off) in the real life crash the car did bounce off the side of the road and get enough air to hit the overheard telegraph lines (see: https://vault.si.com/vault/1957/05/20/horror-in-italy). I believe the shot of the car barrel rolling over the spectators was done practically (with the people CG’d in, according to: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/ferrari-cinematographer-erik-messerschmidt-intense-race-scenes-1235646808/)

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago
Reply to  Cake_taco

I guess I should say the trajectory of the car just seems too perfect for the movie in that it darts across the road to then roll perfectly parallel to the road. It just feels really wrong compared to the way I’m used to seeing race cars crash in various different series.

I Could but Meh
I Could but Meh
3 months ago

This take sounds like the people that were mad that Oppenheimer wasn’t a movie detailing the science of the bomb. It’s about the person and their life. Ferrari’s relationships with those around him and how that affected the company. It’s not a racing film

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
3 months ago

For me this film was so bad it was good.

Whoever thought shooting a scene with a 60 year old fat guy porking his wife on the dinner table was sexy needs therapy.

The car stuff was truly cringe worthy. Terrible cgi crash scenes that seem to defy gravity and an absolutely hilarious shot of a car sliding off the road into a rock. It was clearly a suspension-less cart with a dummy at the wheel.

Honestly, the crash scenes in CHIPS looked way better.

There was so much they could have done, but in the end, they just didn’t understand the material.

I went home and watched Grand Prix as a pallet cleanser.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago

Damn, I was expecting some sort of mashup between Ford v Ferrari and House of Gucci but this doesn’t sound like that at all. Thanks for the heads up.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 months ago

Insert Metalocalypse ‘Brutal’ meme here.
I love it – pretentious Hollywood nonsense like this should be called out for what it is more often. Thanks for the warning, I’ll steer clear of this movie.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith
StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Or Skwisgaar saying “This is dildos”

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

Well. Shit.
I like Adam Driver, I was mildly looking forward to realizing this was eventually on one of the streaming service I subscribe to.

Alex Kwanten
Alex Kwanten
3 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

At home, you’re also free to MST3K the shit out of it amongst yourselves. From your review though, even that doesn’t seem like it would be worth it.

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