Billed as an Italian Love, Actually, Ages of Love (or Manual of Love 3 as it is also known) even has its poster art recalling that 2003 Brit film of interconnecting stories of love won and lost. But despite its interlocking story structure, Giovanni Veronesi's film is a much more straight forward affair, making the Richard Curtis' rom-com seem positively labyrinthine by comparison.
The 'ages of love' depicted here are youth (20s), middle age and post-middle age, and are told from the male perspective as a young lawyer (Riccardio Scamarcio), a television news anchorman (Carlo Verdone), and a retired American scholar (Robert De Niro) learn first hand that love - or more appropriately, lust - makes fools of us all. And even more so when you think with your penis.
Roberto (Scamarcio) is seconded to a village to persuade the residents of a farm to sell their home. While he awaits their decision he becomes the source of much amusement for the locals, a rag tag group of harmless men, and one not-so-harmless woman who succeeds in seducing Roberto, despite his having a fiance back in Rome.
Fabio (Verdone) is a news anchorman who, despite 25 seemingly happy years of marriage, succumbs to the advances of an admirer only to discover the woman is a stalker but not so much in the Glenn Close-Fatal Attraction kind of way. No bunnies are hurt in Ages of Love but Fabio's ego, and his toupe, sure take a beating.
And then there's Adrian (De Niro), the retired and divorced American scholar who has come to Rome to live. And it's suddenly la dolce vita when the daughter of his best friend, Augusto (Michele Placido), comes to stay. That's Viola, played by Monica Bellucci, so you can almost forgive Adrian's sudden change in attire - lycra running shorts - or lack thereof (one scene has De Niro perform an awkward striptease for Bellucci).
All of these stories, tenuously linked by a taxi driving cupid, are mildly amusing and harmless enough, but none of them reveal anything insightful about the nature of love other than the man's inability to function properly when presented with the attentions of a new female.
Still, Ages of Love was a huge hit at the recent Lavazza Film Festival. I can't say if that was the audience's desire to see a rom-com done in a way other than the tried (i.e. tired) and true way of Hollywood or to simply see De Niro in his first Italian-speaking role since Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976), and his least embarrassing performance (striptease aside) in quite some time.