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Film / Two Cents Worth of Hope

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Two Cents Worth of Hope (Due soldi di speranza) is a 1952 romantic comedy directed by Renato Castellani.

Antonio is a young man who comes back to his village outside of Naples, after being discharged from the army at the end of World War II. He is eager for work, but in post-war Italy there is little work to be had for young men in the provinces. He is also afflicted with a grasping mother, who has a habit of confiscating what meager wages he does occasionally earn, and using them on the lottery.

He falls in love with Carmela, a high-spirited girl from his village. Carmela and Antonio would like to marry, but Antonio struggles to find work, and whenever he does, circumstances conspire against the young lovers. Will they find happiness?

Third film of the "Young Love Trilogy" by Castellani, after Under the Sun of Rome and It's Forever Springtime.

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Tropes:

  • The Alleged Car: The bus that all the elderly coachmen buy when news of a bus service threatens to make their coaches obsolete. The roof is gone, the doors are falling off, springs are poking out of the upholstery, and the engine stalls.
  • Answer Cut: Carmela sneaks off to Naples to see Antonio. When he worries that she'll get in trouble with her dad, she says "What can he do?". Cut to Carmela, chained to the bed at home.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: There's a lot of pointed satire in this film about the plight of the poor working man in postwar Italy. Antonio goes to Naples to look for work, and for no reason whatsoever is arrested. He's told that he can't be in Naples without a job, but of course he has to go to Naples to get a job. He goes back home in jobless defeat.
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: A rooster crowing is used to set the scene when Antonio gets back into town in the early morning after one of his mysterious overnight trips to Naples. A rooster crowing is heard again when his sister is getting married early in the morning at a Shotgun Wedding that everyone's embarrassed about.
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  • Ill Girl: The lady who owns the theater where Antonio gets a job has a sickly son, Cicci, who is bedridden. Antonio earns some extra money by selling his blood to the apparently anemic Cicci.
  • Important Haircut: The truth behind Carmela's Belligerent Sexual Tension teasing of Antonio is revealed early in the film, when he makes fun of her braids. She promptly goes home and cuts them off, which enrages her mother.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The coachmen are appalled by the ratty condition of the old bus they're buying. The owner confidently states that the condition of the body doesn't matter, that the engine is good, and what really matters is the engine. The engine immediately coughs and stalls out.
  • Italian Neorealism: An example of the "pink neorealism" of the 1950s in which the tropes of Italian Neorealism—an invokedAmateur Cast, Perpetual Poverty, Real-Place Background—were used for comedy and melodrama. This after Italian Neorealism started out with grim dramas like Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City. Instead this movie is a romcom filtered through Italian Neorealism.
  • Kick the Dog: The ending has one of Carmela's aunts go to her father, and appeal to him to stop being such an asshole and give Antonio a job so Antonio and Carmela can get married. The dad says to have them come by the house the next morning. So they do, only for Carmela's mother to hand them her stuff in a bag, while her father screams from a window that he's disowning his daughter and he'd hire "the village idiot" before he'd hire Antonio.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A kitchen sink comedy focusing on a young man who just wants a job so he can get married.
  • The Load: Carmela is not particularly useful. At one point, she blurts out to the married women teasing her that Antonio has a second job working for the Communist Party in Naples. This loses him his first job, working at the church. Later, she insists on visiting him in Naples when he's working at the movie theater, which causes the lady theater owner, who has a crush on Antonio, to fire him when she catches the two together.
  • Moment Killer: Carmela and Antonio are canoodling in the church. They get horizontal and seem about to have sex when they both notice the statue of the Virgin Mary on a shelf right next to them. Carmela turns the Virgin around but Antonio has lost the mood.
  • Narrator: A narrator is occasionally used to provide exposition, like when the narration explains that Antonio has been taking the train in to Naples in the evenings and back in the morning.
  • Never Learned to Read: Antonio's mother can't read and has to take his letters to a clerk at the post office to read for her. This is plot-relevant as it's how Carmela, who overhears, learns that Antonio has found a job in Naples.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: Antonio's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Carmela's father leads to the people in the market, who are impressed by his bravery and devotion, giving them a dress for Carmela as well as a shirt and shoes. The lovers walk away, off to Naples, followed by a pan up to the church and the sky, followed by "FIN".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Carmela's father has a Kick the Dog moment in which he summons them to his house only to tell them that he's disowning her. In response Antonio basically calls him an asshole and says they don't want anything from him, so he throws back the bag with her stuff and even takes off her dress and her shoes before throwing them back at Carmela's father as well.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The scheme in which the carriage owners will run a bus service together falls apart immediately when the carriage owners argue so violently about who will take the tickets that their partnership ends on the spot, with one old man lying down in front of the bus while another old man is puncturing tires in the back. The scene ends with the narrator saying "It was a really good inauguration."
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Played for drama. Antonio's "The Reason You Suck" Speech ends with him saying that they don't want anything from Carmela's father. That includes the clothes on her back, so he pulls off her dress (leaving her in a slip) before taking off his own shirt and putting it on her.
  • Shotgun Wedding: An unconventional one, in that an older man named Luigi has knocked up Antonio's sister Giulia, but the problem is perceived to be Giulia's lack of a dowry. So before Antonio can save up enough money to get married himself, he has to save up money so his sister can get married.
  • World of Ham: The whole movie is a lot of excitable people getting excited and saying things loudly.
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