Never Stop Driving #80: Ferrari, the movie

Courtesy of NEON/Lorenzo Sisti

I’ve seen Ferrari and heartily recommend you do the same. If nothing else, a strong box-office showing for Michael Mann’s long-awaited flick will induce more talented filmmakers to do like we do here at Hagerty Media: mine the rich characters who populate more than a century of automotive history.

I left the theater on Christmas Day grateful to have seen a reasonably accurate portrayal of Enzo Ferrari, 1950s Italy, and terrific acting performances, but wishing Mann had spent more time on the cars and the company. Instead, the movie is a story about how Enzo Ferrari juggles his self-induced maelstrom of a personal life. The film is based in 1957 when the 59-year-old Enzo is still mourning the recent death of the son he bore with his wife Laura, even as he tends to a second family that includes a mistress and a son. Plus, his domineering mother still lives with him and Laura, and he’s running a teetering company that requires dozens of hot-headed and egotistical drivers and engineers. Mamma mia!

Ferrari film behind the scenes Adam Driver lead Enzo Ferrari
Courtesy of NEON/Lorenzo Sisti

Enzo’s 90-year life was so rich that biographies, like the most recent one by former Ferrari PR man Luca Dal Monte, are nearly 1000 pages long. I know Mann had to focus somewhere but I yearned for more of the intrigue and creativity that filled the workshops and racing paddocks, not just the apartments and bedrooms. Hollywood’s handling of Ferrari is bound to be a suicide mission for the likes of me. I was also disappointed with the generally excellent Ford v Ferrari movie from 2019 because it relegated Phil Remington to a hapless administrator rather than acknowledging his central role as the engineer/fabricator who Carroll Shelby admitted was a key to his success. For the non-Hollywood version, check out our piece on Shelby and Ford.

Two days after I watched the movie, I embarked on a 600-mile road trip to visit family on the East Coast and listened to an audio version of the book the movie was based on: Enzo Ferrari: The Man, The Cars, The Races, The Machine. Longtime Car and Driver columnist Brock Yates published the book in 1991, the year I first met him. I loved the guy who created the Cannonball Run for his bombastic and simple writing style but also because he was an exceedingly decent human. I first read the book some 25 years ago and, last week, Yates’ breezy style made for a gripping audio version. The 10-hour Interstate slog whizzed right by as I listened to all the intricate Ferrari history for which I yearned.

We’ve also produced plenty of Ferrari material. I’d start with a summary biography of Enzo penned by the gifted Aaron Robinson, then dig into Don Sherman’s history of the V-12 that made the company. Robinson and I discuss the movie and Ferrari history in this week’s Never Stop Driving podcast, which is on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube. We’ve made videos, too, including one where Jason Cammisa explains that the Dino sub-brand was not Enzo’s afterthought but rather his highest honor. We also published a more detailed review of the movie. I’ve just pointed out some highlights; for the full list of Ferrari material, go here.

If you’ve seen the movie, please post your thoughts in the comments! Catch you next week.


P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

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    Dear Larry,
    I am your senior and grew up with Brock Yates & Car and Driver. Yate’s seemed to always put the personalities associated with the vehicles first. I also saw Ferrari and felt Yates’ presence throughout. Perhaps we need more compelling cinema dedicated to the persona rather than the product. Bravo Michael!

    I saw the film a few days ago and found it very enjoyable. However the cod Italian accents and over-loud audio in the cinema made most of the speech unintelligible. For myself the story was very well known but I had to explain much of it to my wife on the way home.

    The movie was better than I expected. Still not better than Grand Prix but I put it up second. It was well done.

    It is not a movie for everyone. It takes some knowledge of Enzo and Italy to understand the culture and the man a bit better. He takes some major hits by the modern woke American standards.

    Larry you have a fair assessment.

    I do have the 1,000 page biography. It would take a mini series over several years to really cover his life.

    I would like the same treatment being given to Zora. An engineer, racer, lover, spy and more. Then his time with Corvette.

    This is perfect. The critics panned the movie because Enzo came across as wooden, although they were appreciative of the car scenes. Mr. Webster wished there was more car and less character. Like the life and times of Mr. Ferrari it appears that strong opinions are divided re the movie version . Somehow, that seems to be the perfect state of affairs for anything having to do with Mr. Ferrari — there are times when art really does imitate life, even after death.

    The cars and scenery in Italy were great, but plot was very negative the whole way through. Took my whole family to see it, since my daughter’s passion is Motorsport and Ferrari…big mistake, with graphic sex scenes, and big wrecks with people getting ripped apart…those visuals were unnecessary to tell the story. And the way the movie just ended abruptly was a let down. Could have been much better.

    Coincidentally we just returned from Italy, visiting my daughter who is working on her MBA in the Business of Motorsports at Bologna University. One of our stops was Museo Piero Taruffi near the town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Museum has cool cars and history, but not well organized. That “dying town” however is amazing, slowly but surely eroding away down the side of a hill.

    Oh wow. I now have to visit that museum. Thanks for the tip. That’s also pretty amazing that one could get an MBA in motorsports. Wow…..

    Too much personal drama. Loved the cars. This was a movie I’ll only watch once. Had difficulty understanding the dialogue.

    My wife and I went to see “Ferrari” New Years Day.
    We got our tickets and sat down. They ran the ads
    and previews but eventually refunded our money
    when they couldn’t get the movie projector started,
    Talk about realistic irony at a movie about Italian cars!

    Love reading your column and wanted to see if you are available to speak to groups. I have a small trade association and know my members would enjoy hearing from you too. Please let me know.
    Thank you
    Guy Young
    Auto Haulers Association of America

    I appreciate your commentary on the movie. I have been on the fence about going to see it. I know the stories around Enzo Ferrari all too well but, from various reviews I have read, thought the movie might be a poor use of time to watch……much too much “Hollywood” and far too little of the real substance about both the man, his convoluted life and, most importantly, the cars. Now, you have piqued my interest and I am off to the local cinema!

    I think you’re pretty spot on — the movie is great in many ways, but it’s going to be a box office flop because it’s too much soap opera being presented when folks want something more like Ford v Ferrari with all the racing and car/driver centered action. I was disappointed that we saw so little of the portrayals of Behra, Moss, and all the Ferrari drver and thos beautiful cars they piloted.

    The tragic wreck scene was brutal – and I can’t imagine anything ner reality, but demosntrated how dangerous the sport was for participants and spectators both.

    If they can do a ‘directors cut’ with more shop, testing, and racing action that might help…

    Saw the movie, like Rush and Ford v. Ferrari, in theaters. Unlike it’s companions, I can’t recommend paying the lofty price of a movie seat these days to watch it. Wait for it to stream and grab a free trial of whatever streaming service it debuts on.
    The acting was superb, but it’s car-ness was almost lost among the soap opera that Mann made of Enzo’s life (or that Enzo made of his own life. You decide.)
    It doesn’t help that Mann apparently couldn’t be bothered to take the virtual effects seriously in his typical quest to show us all of the literal gory details. From Castellotti basically starfish rag-dolling in the first crash of the movie to de Portago’s wreck during the Mille (in which Mann takes the most liberty, given there were no actual historical photos or video of the event) his signature unflinching-ness actually cheapened the film for me.
    Was it a bad movie? No, but it deserved a better director.

    Yeah, I see your point, but the movie definitely communicated that racing in the 1950s was a violent bloodsport.

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