A Coming-of-Age Road Film
Director Gabriele Muccino brings us a movie about two Italian teenagers who head off to spend their summer in the United States. It is a highly autobiographical portrait of adolescence focusing on a group of high school students in Rome. The story starts in Rome and then moves to the US.
Marco (Brando Pacitto) delayed his plans for the summer after an accident on his scooter, but when the Insurance company paid up it gave him enough money to travel. His friend Vulcano (Guglielmo Poggi) was already in California and he told Marco that he could hook him up with some friends of his who would let him crash in their apartment in San Francisco for a few days. However what he did not tell Marco was that he had also said the same to Maria (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) and she is one of their very conservative and uptight schoolmates who Marco detested.
When Marco and Maria land in San Francisco, they learn that their hosts are Matt (Taylor Frey) and Paul (Joseph Haro) are a gay couple and Maria cannot suppress her homophobic feelings. By the 2nd day however Maria had a little, probably because she was starting to feel something for Matt especially after she discovered that he was actually bi-sexual. One of the best parts of the film is when Matt shares how he and Paul got together. Marco and Maria had originally planned to spend the next few days in San Francisco bit it actually became weeks as the four of them bonded in friendship. Maria developed a serious crush on Matt and although she had now warmed to Marco and would not allow him to act on his feelings for her.
There is a sense of expectancy of things that will never happen in the film. Muccino gives us several false leads to give the impression of a layer of complexity that is not there and we can tell early on how this is all going to end. The main idea of the film seems to be getting us to remember our pasts and those special summer memories. We feel the energy, curiosity, erotic tension, recklessness of the film.
I really feel like the movie patronizes the gay characters and that is probably due to the very weak script. They seem to be little more than accessories for Maria so that she show how cool she is by having gay friends (yet we already know her feelings about homosexuality). She also thinks it might help her relationship with Marco who is the total antithesis of a cool guy.
While Marco and Maria waste time complaining about the endemic corruption and disenchantment of contemporary Italy, Matt and Paul complain about the culture of America in conversations that are totally shallow but then that is how the characters are presented to us. Director Muccino simply threads together inconsequential vignettes of the quartet’s ” time together with a music video-style videos that replace dialogue because the characters realize that they really have nothing to say. All the while, poor Marco pines for Maria who could care less. The banal unrequited summer love is really what the movie is all about.
The four main actors all are pretty and harmless enough, even if not one of them ever gets to show any genuine feeling. They are fine actors but as people, I do not want to ever see any of them anywhere. There is a wonderful Yiddish word to describe this film— “drek” and there is so much of it no amount of glossy can cover it up.