Ferrari Premiered At Venice Film Festival, And Opinions Are Split About Adam Driver’s Biopic

Adam Driver in Ferrari
(Image credit: Neon)

Ferrari has been a long time coming for Michael Mann. The director reportedly started looking into adapting Brock Yates’ 1991 book Enzo Ferrari — The Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine back at the turn of the 21st century, and not only did he lose Christian Bale as the lead in 2016, but his replacement Hugh Jackman dropped out in 2022. At long last Ferrari, starring Adam Driver, premiered on August 31 at Venice Film Festival, and those who were able to screen the movie are weighing in on Mann’s longtime passion project

As can be expected from Michael Mann, Ferrari features an A-list cast, and along with Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, we will see Penélope Cruz as his wife, Shailene Woodley as his longtime mistress, a white-haired Patrick Dempsey, Sarah Gadon, and Jack O'Connell. The critics seem split following the film’s Venice premiere, so let’s take a look at what they have to say. 

Critics Praise Michael Mann’s Ferrari As ‘High-Intensity’ And ‘Impactful’ 

David Rooney of THR says Adam Driver brings gravitas and intellect to his character, and Penélope Cruz provides passion in this “turbo-charged portrait.” The critic writes: 

Ferrari is as unapologetically masculine as anything Mann has made and also as visceral, never more so than when it’s revving its engines and roaring around the track or along open roads in exciting race scenes. …Ferrari is unlikely to go down as canonical Mann, lacking the glimmering, hard-edged stylishness of his best work. But admirers of the director’s high-intensity, muscular filmmaking will not go unrewarded.

Stephanie Zacharek of Time says Michael Mann’s first flick since 2015’s Black Hat zooms along with sleek energy, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from the “vigorous” filmmaker. Zacharek also notes the movie’s masculinity, writing: 

Mann isn’t the most emotionally expressive director around, and Ferrari never strays far from its manly-man preoccupations; when it comes to real human feelings, Mann isn’t great at digging beneath the surface. Still, this is a pretty good-looking surface, and once you make peace with the convention of having American or Spanish actors playing Italian characters by speaking accented English—let’s call it the House of Gucci syndrome—Ferrari is reasonably engaging. The racing scenes, in particular, are thrilling, though they’re mitigated by a sense of horror.

Siddhant Adlakha of Mashable calls the biopic “scattered but impactful,” creating a deft balance between the comedic and tragic. Adlakha commends Adam Driver’s performance, noting the subtlety he brings to character. In the critic’s words: 

Driver's embodiment of Ferrari goes far beyond the physical, and certainly beyond his occasionally shaky Italian accent, which stands out further in the presence of actual Italian actors. The vast majority of scenes feature Ferrari surrounded by other people, during which he's direct and curt, creating a sense of enormous ego and presence through his line readings alone. But during the rare moments when the camera catches him alone, whether in actual isolation, or simply when his back is turned from other people, glimmers of his true self appear across his face, a questioning vulnerability that he doesn't even reveal to his closest confidants.

Not all of the critics had such a positive experience with Michael Mann's Ferrari, however.

Others Call Ferrari ‘Unessential’ And Point Out Unauthentic Italian Accents 

Jane Crowther of GamesRadar rates the movie 3 stars out of 5, saying the film feels “unessential and uncharacteristic.” While still classically rendered, Crowther writes that Ferrari lacks a certain something under the hood to make it fly. In the critic’s words: 

Like Ferrari’s motors, the production is sleek, expensive-looking and runs handsomely. But unlike the brand’s famous 0-60 mph starting capabilities, Mann’s film takes time to run the tyres in, only really reaching top gear in its second half. It works as a companion piece to Le Mans ‘66, but doesn’t manage to surpass it.

Nicholas Barber of BBC says Ferrari is “stuck in the slow lane,” also noting that the Italian accents delivered by non-Italian actors is something that “probably should have been confined to a Super Mario Bros movie.” Barber continues: 

For all [Enzo Ferrari’s] legendary achievements, he comes across as a grumpy provincial middle manager. Cruz gets to clump around town scowling at people, but she doesn't convey what Laura thinks about the company she helps to run. And Jack O'Connell pops up as an English driver, Peter Collins, but he is given almost nothing to say except the immortal line, ‘Thank you, old bean.’ To put it in the most appropriate terms: it's hard to see what drives any of them. The racing sequences have enough energy and jeopardy to raise the pulse rate, but the rest of Ferrari... well, surely a film about high-speed cars shouldn't pootle along as slowly as this one does.

The critics can’t come to a consensus on this one, but it’s worth noting that the positive-leaning assessments admitted to Ferrari having faults, and the negative-leaning critics all found some good in the movie. If this Adam Driver-led biopic from Michael Mann is one you’re looking forward to, you’ve unfortunately still got a while before its December 25 release to theaters. In the meantime, take a look at our 2023 movie release schedule to see what else is coming to the big screen.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.