After having played one successful Italian in House of Gucci, Adam Driver is back portraying another professionally famous but personally flawed Italian character in Michael Mann’s Ferrari. Driver plays the role of the titular businessman, as the film presents a tumultuous situation in Enzo Ferrari’s professional and personal lives. With the business running into heavy losses and his wife Laura finding out about the many extramarital affairs that he has been having, Enzo must sort his life out on both sides in order to avoid crashing into failure. Although Ferrari is slightly underwhelming with regards to the drama, the visuals and the overall making do entertain for the most part.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
Michael Mann’s Ferrari presents a difficult phase of life for the Italian racing and sports car company that has now become an iconic brand all over the world. The company was started after the end of WWII, in the Italian city of Modena, by ex-racer Enzo Ferrari and his wife Laura. Mainly founded as a racing team that would construct cars and participate in various sports racing events, Enzo Ferrari’s ambitions started to pay off by 1947, when Ferrari won some illustrious races and started to make a name for itself. The focus of the Ferrari film is not the early days of the company, though, but ten years later, in 1957, when the founder and principal faced troubles both in his personal and professional lives.
At the time, Ferrari S.p.A. was facing serious financial issues, owing to Enzo’s high-reaching ambitions of developing his racing cars and also since the company already had a large number of workers whose livelihood depended on it. The streams of revenue were also very limited—while the sports team had to participate and win races, which in itself needed more investments, the production cars, meant to be sold to customers, had very little demand and supply. Much to the worry of the other officials in the company, Enzo was more interested and invested in the racing side of things, which was making Ferrari lose much more money than it was making. As a result, Enzo is advised to bring in an external partner by selling company shares.
The decision to bring in external investment into the company is itself something that Enzo is not willing to do, but the matter is made even more difficult because of his personal life. The co-founder and Enzo’s wife, Laura, still had half of the shares, and the man has to convince her to give them up so that these shares can be sold off to an established company like Ford. However, the relationship between the couple had terribly soured in these ten years’ time, for there was no romance or friendship left between them. Enzo had been actively having affairs with quite a few women, and Laura was about to find out about one particular serious affair. Amidst such turmoil, the Ferrari company struggles to keep afloat and to face off against the strong rival Maserati racing team.
What does Laura find out about her husband?
Laura and Enzo’s whirlwind romance began in their younger days, and the two had started their company together as a married couple. They also had a son named Alfredo, or Dino, and things could not have been happier for the family. However, the bond and emotions started to wane after Dino fell sick at a young age, and the boy was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. At the mere age of 24, Dino passed away in 1956, a year prior to the events of Ferrari in 1957. This loss of their son hurt and affected the couple tremendously, and this became the final blow to make them drift apart. While Enzo had already been involved with many women illegitimately by this time, the death of Dino made him and Laura lose all love and respect for each other. But divorce was still not an accepted way to end a marriage in Italy at the time, and besides, the two still co-owned Ferrari, and none were ready to give up on it.
When Enzo first presented the idea of selling part of the company to some external partner to his estranged wife, Laura refused to give up her shares. It took some convincing to make her agree to this arrangement, but the woman still naturally wanted money against the shares. She named a price of 500,000 dollars for her 50% stake in Ferrari, and Enzo reluctantly agreed to it. Since he did not have that much money to spare, Enzo told Laura to cash the check only after he secured a deal with Ford or some major company like it. Laura does finally agree to the whole plan, perhaps because she knows that her husband will never be back with her, and so the woman has to arrange for her own life. But she also gets a major shock upon finding out that her husband has a different family behind her back.
Only some time earlier, one of the drivers for the Ferrari racing team had lost his life when pushing himself and the car to the limits in order to set a fast lap record. The widow of this driver had to be compensated, and Laura was given the responsibility of going through the accounts and doing it. While looking at the matter and also being presented with the terms of her agreement with her husband, Laura found out that a considerable amount of money was being spent on a house in a place called Castelvetro. Since Laura had no idea about the existence of this house, she senses something awry and immediately goes over to the house to find a toy Ferrari model, which makes her realize what has been happening behind her back.
Among his many affairs, Enzo Ferrari had become particularly invested in one with a younger woman named Lina Lardi. As the war was ending, Lina came up to Enzo and announced that she had become pregnant with his child, which was a matter of jubilation for the man. For the next many years, he looked after Lina and their son, Piero, both of whom had been kept at the house in Castelvetro. Enzo had a loving bond with this secret family of his, and Lina often yearned to become the man’s official wife. This was because of Enzo’s promise to leave Laura and officially announce the two as his family, but he had not done it yet. Thus, when Laura finally finds out about this matter, Enzo faces difficulty from both sides of his personal relationship. While Lina is upset that she or her son have not been given formal acknowledgement, Laura is furious at her husband’s limits of infidelity.
Laura had known for a long time that her husband was having affairs, but she always believed them to be casual ones and was never affected by them. However, the thought of the man having a different family altogether, and especially a son, terribly hurt and angered her. The grief of having lost Dino was still very fresh, and it is evident from one of the couple’s altercations that Laura held Enzo responsible for not having done enough for their son. While this was not necessarily true, this sentiment perhaps pushed the couple even further from each other. Laura believes that her husband had been away, looking after the needs of his illegitimate son Piero, while their own son Dino was on his deathbed.
How Did de Portago Die during the Mille Miglia race?
As a considerable strategy to sell more on-road, or commercial, cars, Ferrari had to establish themselves as a recognizable brand, and in order to do so, the team had to win more races. The prestigious Mille Miglia open-road endurance race was the upcoming major event, and so Enzo started preparing his team for this very event. Replacing the driver who had earlier died, Ferrari signed up a Spanish racer named Alfonso de Portago after numerous tests. Initially, Enzo was reluctant to give the driver a chance, since it was de Portago who had approached the team and not the other way around. But with an empty seat to fill, the team gave de Portago a chance to drive the car on track, and his skills almost immediately convinced Enzo.
With the sole aim of winning the Mille Miglia race so that the Ferrari team could stay afloat, Enzo assembled a team of some of the best drivers in every category, and this included de Portago in the fastest car of the team and the veteran Italian racer Piero Taruffi in another, more stable Ferrari car. Out of the four Ferrari cars participating in the race, Enzo put most of his trust in these two drivers to come out as the fastest. The team still had to compete with long-time rivals Maserati, led by the skilled British racer Stirling Moss, and this would be quite a difficult task. Since the Mille Miglia event was an endurance race, which would go on for many hours and through many different cities in Italy, the execution of pit stops and the durability of the cars also had to be absolutely perfect.
Ferrari very adeptly presents the ever-pushing nature of Enzo, which he spread among his racers as well, telling them to always stretch their skills beyond the limit and to be the hardest competitors. While it is true that such a mindset gives rise to brilliant racers and historic wins, it also pushes racers towards putting their lives at risk. This is exactly what happens during the Mille Miglia race, when Alfonso de Portago refuses to come in for a pit stop in order to compete with the Maserati cars. As a result, de Portago continued on his old set of tires and ultimately met with a horrific accident near the Guidizzolo commune in the Italian countryside. The tire of de Portago’s car punctured, and both the vehicle and the driver flew into the crowds by the side of the road at an extreme speed. The accident immediately claimed the life of not only de Portago, but also of nine spectators who had gathered to see the race, five of whom were children.
As the Maserati cars all retired from the endurance challenge, Ferrari secured the win with Piero Taruffi’s car, but the media were simply more interested in the horrific crash. Enzo Ferrari and his team were immediately held responsible for the incident, and charges of manslaughter and negligence were officially brought against the man by the police. Ferrari does not focus on the court trials, which went on for the next four years, as it ends soon after this incident, but it is also mentioned that all charges against Enzo were eventually dropped. This was because it was found that the puncture had taken place because of a reflector on the road, and it was concluded that neither Ferrari nor the tire manufacturers could have avoided the accident with any safety measure.
Why did Laura cash the check before time?
During Ferrari‘s ending, Enzo gets to know that his wife had just cashed the check at the bank, and this makes the man livid. As he returns home and confronts Laura, a different scenario is revealed. Laura had gotten hold of the cash not to use it for herself but in order to loan the money to her estranged husband, out of a still-existing love and respect for him. Laura suggests that Enzo pay the journalists not to report much on the incident and also to go through the court proceedings with the 500,000 dollars she was loaning him. This comes as an ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Laura, as she continues to support her husband through this treacherous time. But in exchange, Laura demands just one promise from Enzo—that he should not give the Ferrari surname to Piero as long as she is alive. Laura always considered this situation to be an act of disrespect towards Dino, who was the sole legal heir to the company, and so she ensured that no illegitimate son of Enzo would receive the same inheritance during her lifetime. By this time, Enzo had already received a call from Gianni Agnelli, the principal investor in Fiat, who wanted to invest in Ferrari after the team’s win in the Mille Miglia race. It was through this partnership with Fiat that Ferrari managed to survive the financial troubles.
Ferrari ends with an endearing scene of Enzo with young Piero, for even though he had kept his wife’s promise of not giving the boy the Ferrari surname, the man did still keep in touch with Lina and Piero. After Laura’s death in 1978, Enzo joined his other family and finally lived together with them. Piero was also given the Ferrari surname officially, and at present, the man is still the Vice Chairman of Ferrari S.p.A.