Puccini for Beginners


Puccini for Beginners

Critics Consensus

A Woody Allen-ish film that needs more of the caustic wit expected from the best New York rom coms.



Total Count: 63


Audience Score

User Ratings: 706
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Movie Info

A woman who loves opera finds herself playing a romantic version of musical chairs in this independent comedy from writer and director Maria Maggenti. Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) is a writer who has been involved with Samantha (Julianne Nicholson) for some time, but Allegra just isn't willing to make a commitment. Eventually, Samantha decides she's had enough, and she not only leaves Allegra, she jumps to the other side of the gender divide and starts dating a man. While Allegra is none too pleased with Samantha's actions, she unwittingly finds herself following suit when she meets Philip (Justin Kirk), a college professor, at a party. After a few cocktails, Allegra and Philip end up in bed, and while Allegra is content to leave it as a one-night stand, Philip has different ideas, and goes so far as to dump his girlfriend to pursue a relationship with Allegra, even though she's made it clear to him she's not at all serious about him. At the same time, Allegra strikes up a new romance with Grace (Gretchen Mol), but she doesn't know all that much about Grace's previous lovers -- who happen to include Philip. Puccini for Beginners was screened in competition at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Puccini for Beginners

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (31)

  • Fresh Manhattan locations prove as photogenic as the leads, and the supporting actors -- especially Tina Benko as a glacial, impeccably dressed amazon -- don't miss a beat of Maggenti's snappy dialogue.

    Dec 17, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Reaser really doesn't stand a chance. She's plucky as heck, and you like her despite the script, but she can't save the movie.

    Mar 23, 2007 | Rating: C- | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • There is pleasure and even insight to be had in Puccini but it all feels second-hand, and therefore, of questionable provenance.

    Mar 23, 2007 | Rating: 2/4
  • Puccini for Beginners doesn't quite make it as romantic comedy. Most of the elements are in place, but the characters seem too narcissistic to fall in love and too broad-brush to be authentic.

    Mar 16, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Has a likable smartness to it; like a good Woody Allen film with a gay twist.

    Mar 16, 2007 | Rating: 3/4
  • It's no fun to sit through the movie's retread Woody Allenisms, including postmodern repartee among the self-absorbed or giddily neurotic and passing strangers suddenly given to ironic Greek chorus-like commentary.

    Mar 15, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Puccini for Beginners

  • Apr 25, 2012
    A lesbian on the rebound begins dating a man and a woman who have, unbeknownst to her, recently broken up. Most of this film clips by at a great pace, and some of Allegra's lines, like "Those who break up with me usually earn my life-long devotion," are quite funny. And the smart dialogue, especially by random strangers on the street a la Annie Hall, is a good reason to like this film. However, though I have no problem that the film eventually degrades into a basic tale about the need for commitment and emotional honesty, I don't think that Allegra emerges as a character who could learn that lesson or one deserving of the film's comic ending. Has she really learned enough, or doesn't life always tell us that we can only truly learn once everything is already gone? Overall, I didn't laugh at this comedy, but a little smile appeared once or twice.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2012
    Elizabeth Reaser is lovely, complicated, and adorably clueless. Aspects of this movie echo Annie Hall: random strangers doling out romantic advice, eccentric fantasy like the sentient answering machine. Insightful commentary on sexuality and gender.
    Alice S Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2008
    Great movie!! Absolutely hilarious story plot. Intriguing. Here's a story of one woman who struggles to embrace relationship and commitment. Fearing those but wanting love and desire is one thing, but when she loses her girlfriend then she tries to find a semblance in replacing it in her life. Great cast- Gretchen Mol, Elizabeth Reaser, and Justin Kirk.
    Leo L Super Reviewer
  • Feb 06, 2007
    [font=Century Gothic]In "Puccini for Beginners", Allegra(Elizabeth Reaser), a writer, has just been dumped by her girlfriend, Samantha(Julianne Nicholson), for not being able to commit. At first, Allegra is depressed at being alone but soon meets Philip(Justin Kirk), a philosophy professor, at a party and feels attracted to him, even though she identifies as a lesbian and has not had sex with a man in a long time. And then she meets Grace(Gretchen Mol) at a screwball comedy festival...[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Unbeknowst to Allegra, Philip and Grace have been together for six years.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]Written and directed by Maria Maggenti, "Puccini for Beginners" is an uneven attempt at screwball comedy despite a hopeful premise, set in an alternate New York City where everybody has cool jobs but never works, and the same five people just happen to run into each other repeatedly.(And I just want to point out that the staff of Cinema Village has never alerted me to the presence of cute blonde patrons...) To do a successful screwball comedy, you need the right touch and cast. Howard Hawks had it. Ms. Maggenti regrettably does not. I liked Elizabeth Reaser in "Saved" but here she makes for a poor lead.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

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