Ages of Love is the third part in the Italian “Manuel of Love” trilogy, and is itself made up of three separate chapters. These segments, christened “youth”, “maturity” and “beyond”, overlap and intertwin, as men and woman all over the Italian capital flirt and fornicate under the sparkling eyes of a taxi-driving, vest-wearing cupid. And it is truly appalling. Styled by its Australian marketers as an Italian Love, Actually, and sold primarily on the presence of out-of-place Hollywood actors Robert DeNiro (Little Fockers) and Monica Bellucci (The Whistleblower), Ages of Love is a bloated film loaded with unsympathetic leads and woeful attempts at both romance and humour.
In the first story, our supposed hero is Roberto (Riccardo Scamarcio), an ambitious young lawyer with a beautiful, kind and devoted fiancé. Roberto is sent to a small town by his heartless property developing employers to con an old couple (with a mentally challenged son, depicted with an astounding lack of taste) out of their lifelong home. However, not long after he arrives in the quaint little village, Roberto spots the beautiful town flirt Micol (Laura Chiatti), and before you know it his feelings for his fiancé are out the window. Director and co-writer Giovanni Veronesi provides Scamarcio plenty of opportunities to gaze wistfully over the ocean and muse about the power of love, but his characters behaviour is reprehensible no matter how hard you try to sugar-coat it.
The second tale also centres around an adulterer, although at least this time his actions are not presented as quite so romantic. Fabio (Carlo Verdone) is a veteran news anchor, married with an adult daughter. At a party he meets the vivacious Eliana, and from then it’s only a few short scenes until they’re in bed together. What Fabio doesn’t count on is that Eliana is certifiably insane, and is determined to be with Fabio – or at the very least, to have a child by him. This second story is a lot lighter and intentionally sillier than the first, but the comedy – all pratfalls and goofy expressions – is cringeworthy.
One compliment that can be payed to Ages of Love is that the stories get progressively better. In the third tale, Adrian (De Niro), an American history professor living in Rome falls head over heels for the attractive daughter (Belluci) of his best friend (Michele Placido). There is tenderness and a few laughs to be had in this final story, and De Niro gives a fun Italian language performance that, truth be told, is far more impressive than any of his recent work in Hollywood. But Adrian’s behaviour towards his friend is dodgy at best, and as the film ticks over the two hour mark, it’s hard not to get fed up with the way the film continually tries to justify base sexual desire with sentimental romanticism.
Despite its name, this film has very little to do with love. No matter how many Italian’s croon along on the woefully cloying soundtrack, this is a film about lust; about horny men who think with their privates far more than they do with either their heads or their hearts. It’s difficult to care about a film where the men are stupid and unfaithful, and the women they chase – all younger and much more attractive – are alternately psychos, hookers, strippers and shrews. Of course it’s easy enough to brush off this films jaw-dropping political incorrectness with remarks about “those whacky Italians”, and I’d be lying if I said I was ever actually offended by Veronesi’s movie. Were it not so inept and idiotic, maybe. As it stands, Ages of Love is not a sinister film. It’s just a bad one.
Ages of Love is now playing in select Australian cinemas.