“Finally Dawn”: Lily James Shines in an Uneven Mid-Century Drama

Lily James Steals the Show in Italian Mid-Century Drama
Lily James, known for her captivating roles in *Downton Abbey* and *Pam and Tommy*, brings her mid-century movie star charm to Saverio Costanzo’s *Finally Dawn*. Set against the backdrop of Rome’s Cinecittà studios in the 1950s, the film explores a dreamlike night that spirals into a nightmare, reminiscent of *Babylon* condensed into a single, chaotic evening.
A Fairy Tale in Rome
The film introduces us to Mimosa (Rebecca Antonaci), a young Italian woman who auditions to be an extra at Cinecittà. Thrust into the glamorous yet mercurial world of American movie stars, Mimosa is chosen by the legendary Josephine Esperanto (Lily James) for an elevated extra role. What follows is a wild night with Jo, leading man Sean Lockwood (Joe Keery), and chauffeur Rufus Priori (Willem Dafoe), who acts as a fairy-godmother figure.
James’ Star Power
James excels as Josephine, a fictional amalgamation of iconic screen sirens like Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor. She delivers a layered performance, capturing Josephine’s diva-like exterior and underlying loneliness. Sporting a ballgown and red wig, James embodies the enigmatic energy and complexity of a mid-century movie star. Her portrayal is both riveting and nuanced, highlighting Josephine’s selfishness and charm.
Supporting Cast and Performances
Rebecca Antonaci, as Mimosa, is an intriguing newcomer, effectively conveying her character’s confusion and excitement. Willem Dafoe brings a mix of mischief and care to Rufus, balancing his protective nature with self-interest. Joe Keery’s portrayal of Sean Lockwood, however, feels modern and somewhat out of place, a common issue with much of the supporting cast.
A Modern Take on a Historical Setting
Costanzo’s Rome, though polished and visually appealing, lacks the authenticity of the 1950s. The film’s aesthetic and emotional energy often feel contemporary, detracting from the intended period atmosphere. This modern detachment undermines the film’s attempt to depict a night of absurd excess and wild escapades.
Length and Pacing Issues
At 140 minutes, *Finally Dawn* suffers from pacing issues and feels overly long. The narrative’s intent to convey the interminable nature of Mimosa’s night is hampered by clunky pacing, leading to viewer disengagement. A more concise version, trimmed by 20 to 30 minutes, could have delivered a more impactful experience.
Conclusion: A Mixed Bag
*Finally Dawn* offers a surreal coming-of-age story set in the world of mid-century cinema. While Lily James shines as the centerpiece, delivering a standout performance, the film struggles with its meandering script and hollow depiction of the era. Despite its flaws, *Finally Dawn* remains a fascinating watch, thanks largely to James’ portrayal of movie star mayhem.

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