Tiziano Ferro isn’t a household name in America, and that’s just how he wants it. Amazon Prime documentary Ferro profiles the pop singer — sort of an Italian version of Josh Groban, I’d assert — touching on his numerous personal struggles and offering fans intimate access to his private life. Whether the movie has anything to offer those of us who don’t know all the words to Xdono by heart — well, that’s why I’m writing this here review, people.
FERRO : STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: The camera cuts to closeups of several people seated in a circle. “I am an alcoholic,” they each say while introducing themselves, deploying the classic Alcoholics Anonymous mantra. It comes to Tiziano Ferro, and he’s silent. MILAN, NOVEMBER 2019: Ferro releases his seventh studio record. We get a few ego-shots of the man looking serious, confident. Those are contrasted with grainy footage from 1996 of an awkward teenager singing his guts out in a burly, operatic baritone. He implies that he was a misfit in his youth, bullied for being overweight. He landed a contract anyway, but it wasn’t until he starved himself and lost nearly 100 pounds that his career as a pop star took off.
And it happened nearly overnight. He and his husband drive by a coliseum in his native Latina, Italy, and Ferro explains how he went from playing 800-seat theaters to 10,000-capacity stadiums. He wasn’t at all happy at the time, though. He was hungry, gay, closeted, depressed. He turned to drinking to deal with his pain. Ferro doesn’t tout his career accomplishments, how he’s one of Italy’s most popular singers — you can find all the statistics on Wikipedia. This documentary is more about his emotional journey.
We see Ferro singing for massive festival crowds, backed by an extravagant visual production. That’s contrasted with his home life in Los Angeles, where he lives so he can go to the grocery store and never be recognized. He lives in a modest home with his husband Victor Allen and their two chubby, senior dachshunds. They married in the summer of 2019, and we see video footage of the ceremony. Ferro visits an American classroom, because the instructor uses his songs to teach Italian to teenagers. He visits his in-laws; they have dinner guests, and you’ll double-take upon recognizing one of them as Brigitte Nielsen.
He volunteers as an AA sponsor and officiates meetings. After a significant break from the music industry, he returned to the stage in early 2020 for an Italian festival (pre-COVID, of course), and his voice cracked during a big crescendo. He’s upset about it, but others say it was raw, real and moving. This is Ferro’s diary, and it’s pretty much open to all of us.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Ferro has more in common with a bonus DVD you’d get with a deluxe CD (hey, remember those?) than a traditional documentary feature like Dolly Parton: Here I Am or a concert doc like, I dunno, One Direction: This is Us.
Performance Worth Watching: Chubby dachshund reaction shots!
Memorable Dialogue: “I look at the world through a filter of scars.” — Ferro’s thesis statement for this documentary
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Ferro feels like a hodgepodge of anecdotes in which he shares his hardships — bullying, substance abuse, eating disorders, coming out — without getting into the nitty-gritty details. He no doubt aims to inspire others to manage their struggles by sharing his own, and showing himself as a flawed human, not some celeb with a Behind the Music arc that finds him perfect and polished after he quits drinking and finds true love. This is most evident in the classroom scene, when he happily answers a student question about coming out as gay, and uses it as an opportunity to help the class learn how to say “The truth set me free” in his native tongue.
Ferro and its unvarnished intimacy surely will fascinate his fans; this is a millionaire who’s sold 15 million albums and been on the cover of Vanity Fair, and here we sit, watching home video of his wedding (in a curiously long segment in which Ferro sheds many, many tears of joy). The film isn’t a varnished puff piece designed to promote his new album — it came out a year ago — but neither is it an all-encompassing biography or glorified live-concert picture. It lacks the details to give non-fans any kind of context for his level of fame and success. That arguably isn’t necessary, because its goal is to depict Ferro as One of Us, with the same problems many of us face, and it succeeds.
Our Call: STREAM IT, but only if you’re already on the Ferro bandwagon. It’s an unusual approach to the music-biz profile, and in some ways is an act of bravery for a well-known personality to open the door to his personal life so widely.