Do You See Me (Scusate Se Esisto) is a comedy of errors about a talented young woman, Serena (Paola Cortellesi), fighting for her place in the sexist male-dominated profession of Italian architecture. In order to design the building of her dreams, Serena poses as her own assistant to fabricated architect ‘Bruno Serena’. For a while, she is able to get her foot in the door and no one suspects a thing. She has her own desk and is able to participate in regular meetings. But as time passes, Serena’s boss starts to push for more contact with Bruno Serena, and so Serena ropes in her best friend, Francesco (Raoul Bova), to pose as him and pretend to Skype from Japan.
Do You See Me is a funny, sweet film with an important message about gender inequality. Cortellesi has an excellent sense of comic timing and a facial elasticity rivalled only by Jerry Lewis and Amanda Bynes. At the beginning of the film, we see her living abroad – her experience exaggerated to the point of near absurdity. In these scenes, the humour is derived from the ironic juxtaposition of Serena’s reality with her commentary. It is forever raining and her dates comprise of her holding back the hair of her British suitor as he vomits all over her shoes. Yet, her descriptions of these events are upbeat and understated: the weather is “a little damp” and her British suitor “has his own charm”. Serena is optimistic: “I like to see the glass as half full. Today, for example it stopped raining.” At this point, it starts snowing, and we see a close up of her pouting. She is our slapstick protagonist, and we strap ourselves in for a fun, light-hearted comedy.
The scene where we are introduced to Francesco is similarly over-the-top, parodying the entrance of the romantic interest. He struts down the stairs of his restaurant to a blasting soundtrack of ‘Feeling Good’. The shots alternate between his smouldering pout, and Serena’s awestruck face, her eyes wide, her lips slightly parted. As the music hits its climax, Francesco walks between stoves of hot coal and smoke shoots into the air in time with brass band. The scene is so ridiculous, but it captures the nature of Serena’s imagination perfectly. She is ridiculous – everything she does, and everything she feels is in excess. By building up the stakes like this, it becomes even more tragicomic when Francesco reveals to Serena that he is gay. (This revelation occurs in a similarly over-the-top manner – he takes her to a gay bar to watch him strip.)
The audience remains entrenched in Serena’s reality for the entire film, and she is so naïve and genuine that it’s a delightful place to be. It is the perfect set up for the second half of the film which deals with Serena’s struggles in the workplace. By this time, we’ve fallen so in love with Serena that we gain a real empathy for the sexism she encounters at work. For me, this is what made the film so magical. It deals with the heavy, on-point subject matter of sexism in the workplace, but in a way that manages to resonate without preaching. At no point does Do You See Me instruct the audience how to feel. Rather, it endears us so much to Serena, that there is no way to not empathise with her struggles, and by extension the struggles of women everywhere.