When Saverio Costanzo was tapped to direct Season 1 of HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels — simplified as “My Brilliant Friend,” which is the title of the first of the four novels — my first question was, “Whither Alice Rohrwacher?” Well, prayers have been answered, as Italian filmmaker Rohrwacher — the force behind “Happy as Lazzaro” and “The Wonders,” both unique explorations of female troubles — will direct the first two episodes announced so far for Season 2 of “My Brilliant Friend.” It drops March 16 on HBO. Check out the first trailer below.
While Saverio Costanzo (“Hungry Hearts”) succeeded at realizing the crumbling backdrop of Naples as the setting for a psychodrama between two best girlfriends on edge and their colorful lower-middle-class Italian milieu, Ferrante’s novels demand a distinctly feminine gaze. Which is why long-held claims that the mysterious Italian author is actually a man hiding behind a female nom de plume don’t hold much water — the specificity in the dynamic between childhood BFFs-turned-adult-frenemies Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo, some argue, could hardly be made up by a dude.
Costanzo will direct the additional six episodes of an eight-episode season, which launches audiences into the soapy odyssey of the second book of the Neopolitan series, “The Story of a New Name.” It’s the most addictive — and sexiest — of the four books. Now in their teens, Elena and Lila spend a summer vacationing on the island of Ischia, where they vie for the affections of Nino Sarratore, the devastatingly good-looking, ultimate literary fuck-boy whose bedroom eyes and aloof airs will ruin your life, and your friendships. The ole maxim of “chicks before dicks” dies in this hothouse of simmering tensions, and in gloriously addictive fashion for readers and audiences.
The first season of “My Brilliant Friend” aired on HBO throughout November and December of 2018 to modest ratings stateside, but impressive numbers in Italy, where Ferrante continues to live and write her devastating volumes on the complexities of womanhood. It was recently announced that Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson will star for director Maggie Gyllenhaal in another Ferrante adaptation, “The Lost Daughter,” about a divorcée and English teacher who, while on holiday, develops an unsettling obsession with another family staying at a small coastal beach town. She’s not far from the women of “My Brilliant Friend.” Call it the Elena Ferrante Extended Universe.
Here’s the trailer for Season 2 of “My Brilliant Friend.”