Dull Roman Holiday:
If it weren’t for one of the characters constantly chattering on social media, you’d think Love & Gelato (Netflix) was set in a world before cell phones and computers—when relationships ended because letters got lost in the mail, or international trunk calls did not connect, or some such old-style plot device.
Lina (Susanna Skaggs) decides to obey her mother’s dying wish and go to Italy on her own. Which is just as well, because if she took along her super annoying best friend Addie (Anjelika Washington), millions of Netflix viewers would reach out for their remotes to change the programme… or the channel!
The 18-year-old Lina, is smart enough to be accepted at MIT, but is one of those rare teens today, who is not on social media, and has never dated. So, she lands up in Rome—there is no adventure there, because she stays with her mother’s college roommate Francesca (Valentina Lodovini). Within a few minutes of landing, she is taken to a party, where she meets gorgeous wealthy guy Alessandro (Saul Nanni) and cute poor guy Lorenzo (Tobia De Angelis). She also meets hunky older guy, Howard (Owen McDonnell), who knew her mother back in the day.
For some reason, Lina’s mother never met her Italian pals again, never told her daughter about her time in Rome, or who her father was, but left her a diary so that she could figure out the story herself. Both Francesca and Addie make it a mission in life to teach the awkward Lina to have fun – the former by dressing her up in a glittery dress, make-up and high heels for an opera date with Alessandro; the latter by setting a fake Instagram account with photoshopped images of wet blanket Lina supposedly enjoying herself at various exotic locations.
Alessandro, who, according to his stuffy banker dad, dates so many girls that he cannot remember their names, is enamoured of Lina’s innocence. He is also unhappy in his massive villa with a fleet of swanky cars in the driveway, because his dad wants him to go Harvard and become a banker, while he wants to be an architect.
Lorenzo, to compensate for his “death trap” scooter and job as apprentice chef, has a loving family and a grandmother who makes the best gelato ever.
While reading the diary, Lina also discovers the identity of her father, and what Howard really meant to her mother. The departed mother must have been a bigger idiot than her daughter for keeping needless secrets and depriving Lina of a richer life.
Despite every single romcom cliché ticked on a list, and a particularly charmless leading lady, Love & Gelato, based on the bestselling novel by Jenna Evans Welch, has the spectacular city to make up for all its shortcomings. Also, by today’s standards, it’s clean and wholesome—no profanity, no sex and a few almost chaste kisses. The film could do with less romantic confusion and more visuals of the food Lorenzo dishes out. It does, however, tempt the viewer to get a ticket to Rome.
(This piece first appeared in seniorstoday.in)