If teen love triangles, bland protagonists, and half-assed Italian travelogue footage sound like a good time to you, then you probably still won’t like Love & Gelato, because it is not a good movie.
This is as by-the-numbers as young adult fluffy romances get. There is no backbone or heart to it; just Hallmark-level platitudes about learning to love yourself. Not every movie needs to be subversive, but it’d be nice if they at least tried to be interesting.
Lina Emerson (Susanna Skaggs) is a high school graduate whose mom has recently died. The emotional impact of this event is brushed off the way that one might talk about having to wait in line at the DMV; an inconvenient burden. Nonetheless, Lina takes the trip to Italy that she and her mother had been planning as a graduation present.
There, she meets a coterie of people tangentially connected to her or her mother. They are introduced so quickly and given so little definition that I couldn’t tell them apart or a single thing about them, other than one who is maybe her father, Howard (Owen McDonnell, who resembles a dollar store Alan Rickman here).
She also very quickly connects with a rich Italian boy named Alessandro (Saul Nanni) with a trust fund and a supermodel smolder. He finds her interesting because she’s different from his circle; she hasn’t seen opera and can’t identify wines by region. I think we are supposed to find him enticing, but his pushiness and creepy gaze just gave me the willies.
Meanwhile, she crosses path with a quiet aspiring chef, Lorenzo (Tobia De Angelis) who specializes in making delicious gelato. (Lina moans in pleasure after tasting his gelato and calls it a “gelato orgasm,” probably the edgiest line in the film and, sadly, one of the funniest.) Wouldn’t you know it, but Lina has sparks with both handsome young men!
This movie doesn’t have a plot so much as it has a string of lifeless scenes, then it ends. The characters have no distinct traits, so any concept of an arc is but a faint dream.
A few things keep the film at least vaguely watchable. First is the location photography in Rome, one of my favorite cities in the world; it’s no Summertime as far as Italian travel porn goes, or even Angels & Demons for that matter, but it’s a good setting for a story like this.
It also helps that the cast is full of pleasingly attractive people whom I did not mind watching say insipid things. Skaggs is perfectly adequate in the lead, resembling a likeable human being despite the lethargic script. I’d love if she was cast in something that’s even remotely substantive; at worst, she could join the Hallmark stable of stars in a few years and be one of their better actresses.
But this is the blandest thing I’ve watched all year. I’ve had spoonfuls of gelato with more flavor than this film’s two hours combined.
- Review Project: 2022: Year in Film