TV-14 for some crass language and sexual innuendo. When I looked it up on Common Sense Media, I was horrified by the words they used, mainly because we wanted to watch this with the kids in the room. We didn't let them watch for the most part. Then we realized that this movie was the scandalous equivalent of unseasoned ramen and figured out that this movie were for people afraid of any confrontation. The most questionable thing is about an unwed mother and the film kind of makes light of cheating. Still, TV-14.
DIRECTOR: Brandon Camp
Do you know how many good Italian movies I have sitting right next to the television right now and my wife made me watch this? I try not to judge people on what they like. I always encourage for people to be passionate. If I don't like something, you should continue liking it. After all, who am I? I'm a nobody. I'm going to tell you why I either like or don't like a movie. But this kind of stuff? This is the stuff that I can only consider Hallmark afterbirth. It's not quite Hallmark. After all, there's some mild language, as I mentioned previously. But it is also the most vapid garbage I could ever watch. This movie made me dry heave bile. While I still stand by my statement of liking what you like, I beg you --for the sake of future generations of filmmakers --challenge yourself. I'm all for varying good stuff and bad stuff. But this movie is an outlier for how little a movie can be challenging.
I'm oddly hyperventilating right now. I need to approach this like any other blog entry, despite the fact that A) I really disliked this movie and B) I just finished writing about The Italian Job and it's really late at night. But what is the message of this movie? I could not tell you the name of the movie because, as I've mentioned multiple times on this blog, I'm not much of a rom-com guy. I loathe that they all have generic titles, which makes it even harder to remember. But the story oddly takes the format of another rom-com. It was the story of a husband or a boyfriend who died and he sent his wife on a scavenger hunt whirlwind tour of Ireland, I think. With the case of Love & Gelato, it's the story of a dead mom who insists that her daughter takes a trip to Italy by herself. She's very insistent that she has to go by herself. It's odd, because they have to mention that really weird rule early on to her friend, who ends up showing up anyway, crapping all over her friend's mom's dying wish. But I digress. For a movie about finding love, it has that weird element that states that this is about being a strong woman.
But I never really see the protagonist as being strong. Lina has this coda at the end of the story saying that she got her strength. But the brunt of the movie has her being one of the most dependent characters ever. She shows up in Italy and there's an exposition dump that her Italian is pretty darned impressive. After all, she's going to a prestigious university after acing her AP Italian class. (As a teacher in a pretty impressive school, I don't know many schools that offer AP Italian.) But she never uses it. There are a couple times, for the sake of verisimilitude, that she's forced to use it. But the actress doesn't really sell it very well. Then the movie completely forgets that she's able to converse in this immersive experience. This seems like I'm nitpicking, but she goes to this underground bakery (Yup) and goes on a huge rant about how men are the worst and how baked goods are the only things that really bring her joy. I get the idea that the jokes probably sounded better in English, but I'm going to disagree. I think this would have been one of those glorious moments where reading the text in Italian with a flabbergasted Lina would have crushed. Do you know why I say that? Because the joke didn't land in English. It's just garbage.
But since this is a rom-com, I have to break it down from a romantic comedy perspective. This is one of those love-triangle stories. There's a parallel between the two men she meets in Italy with the men that her dead mother met when she went there. (Also, it's weird that the language changed to Italian in the diary, but I low-key respect that.) But these are such polarizing relationships. The first one is the one we know is going to be terrible. He's not Mr. Darcy and if anyone makes that comparison again, we might end up civilly debating while I slowly lose respect for you. Ale is the worst. He's gross and sleazy. He's just so cringe. And the issue is, I don't know why she is even remotely interested in him. If the film is about making her an independent woman, she's only attracted to money and celebrity if that's the case. There's this moment right when the two agree to go out where she goes to the opera. She's genuinely moved by the opera, which catches Lina off guard. Ale sees this moment. At this second, he's genuinely invested in her. So what does he do? He pulls her out of the show and ruins the opera by running out a fire door. How is that attractive? He so fundamentally understands what she is going through, and yet, she keeps coming back to him? The only reason that she halts that relationship is because he immediately cheats on her.
So that must mean that Lorenzo is her true love. Sure, he's a great guy who looks pretty goofy (Sorry), but he's actually dating someone. And this isn't just someone. This is someone major in his life. Yeah, it doesn't matter that his girlfriend is the worst. She is the worst and that's a nice bone to throw the audience to make it a lot less morally dubious. But he claims that they've been friends since childhood. They've been dating for two years. That's a big deal. While they totally should break up, it shouldn't be because he cheats on her. That's a red flag. And to top it all off, they don't even date? The movie returns to its original thesis about finding oneself. But I don't really have a clear indication why Lina makes that decision. It's like Lina knows that she's in a movie that is about her finding herself and that's why she makes that final choice. But none of the actions leading up to that moment prepare for that decision. It's just because her mom was alone that she feels that she should be alone and make her own decisions. (By the way, my wife straight up said, "I bet she doesn't read the diary in one sitting like a normal person would do.' She's totally right.)
But the most insane element of this movie is the weird will-they-won't-they of choosing an adoptive dad. Yeah, that's not a thing. People don't choose 19-year-olds to take care of. I know. Howard really loved Lina's mom. That's super cool. But you know when an adult meets another adult that's older than them, they don't start defining it as "Adopted Dad". No, they're friends. They can be father figures. I'm very cool with that notion. But the guy does not go up to the girl and say that they want to be their dad. It's not unless that dad has somehow exiled her. And if you really want to squint at the movie and claim that her real father drove her to Howard, I'll have to stop you there. It's not like she had a relationship with that guy and then she found out who he really was. He met the expectations that she had going into that situation.
Also, the gelato. The eponymous gelato! I love me some pistachio gelato. It was the only thing that I could get behind. But he gives away the gelato to make her feel better. To a certain extent, that was sweet of him. But also, she doesn't need a whole pitcher of gelato to make her feel better. You also lied to her and said that you had another one. Come on, dude. That was a major moment for you as a character. It didn't really make you seem all that romantic. It made you seem cocky and kind of dumb.
Then, and boy-oh-boy, this bothers me: Addie. You deserve so much better. I thought we were past the minority best friend. Having your only person of color be the supportive best friend who does all of the stereotypes to make your white friend, who has safely the most blessed life ever, is heartbreaking. Addie makes fake Instagram videos because her life is so empty, but feels the need to support Lina in a crisis that isn't even a crisis? There's so much to do with that character, but it just is the representation card. Why not make this a real character who has actual problems? Why not build her into something that is more than someone to laugh at? It's tokenism and it's really really bad.
I love me some Italy. I'm getting jazzed to go because I know that Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But as pretty as this movie was, it kind of made Italy seem like a bunch of touristy garbage. The pasta in this movie looked terrible. There was no attention to seeing the smaller things that make it great. Instead, it's just filled with tropes and archetypes that seem soulless. Italy is too good to be put into this garbage film. It hurt to watch.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.