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Three ages of love: 'Youth' is the story of Roberto (Riccardo Scamarcio) engaged to Sara (Valeria Solarino) and ready to follow his life's plan But while working in a Tuscan town he is seduced by the provocative Micol (Laura Chiatti). 'Maturity' is the story of Fabio (Carlo Verdone), a famous TV newsreader and faithful husband of 25 years who is seduced by the lovely Eliana (Donatella Finocchiaro), a woman with demons to conquer. 'Beyond' is the story of Adrian (Robert De Niro), a retired American art history professor living in Rome since his divorce. He is seduced by his neighbour's daughter Viola (Monica Bellucci).

Review by Louise Keller:
Cupid's bow mainly hits its target in three separate yet connected chapters in this likeable tale about love. While the characters are loosely linked, interestingly, it is the sense of the ridiculous that is the most noticeable thread that runs through the stories. Tell the truth, be yourself and never give up are the themes that writer / director Giovanni Veronesi canvasses through tales representing love at different times: youth, maturity and beyond. Some parts are more successful than others, and although all eyes are on Robert DeNiro in his first Italian-speaking role for a long time, he is the least convincing of all the characters.

My favourite of the three stories is the first one, titled Youth in which a young lawyer, Roberto (Riccardo Scamarcio), discovers the thrill of the unexpected. Out of his comfort zone away from his loving fiancé Sara (Valeria Solarino) in a picture perfect Tuscan village that glows under the soft afternoon light, Roberto gets caught up with a group of oddball characters and the glamorous temptress Micol (Laura Chiatti). The camera loves Scamarcio (Eden is West) and the funniest moment occurs when Roberto hides behind a green plastic blow-up crocodile after being caught in a compromising situation.

The ridiculous unfolds in the second chapter when the self-conscious, self-important television newsreader Fabio (Carlo Verdone) finds himself in a dangerous liaison with a mysterious brunette, Eliana (Donatella Finocchiaro). Romance and hilarity trade places when their first kiss is serenaded by the flush of the toilet and the handbrake loses its grip during their subsequent liaison in the back of her parked car. Eliana's wont is to play-act during their sexual encounters - predictably, playing the fool (by way of pretending to be an eagle or a pussy cat) leads to disaster - and laughs.

Despite some of the far-fetched comedic elements of the first two sections, the characters are written and portrayed with credibility. The laughs are countered by pathos. By the time DeNiro comes on screen, playing a divorced American professor, it is hard to see him as a real part of the Italian ambience that Veronesi has so beautifully created. True, his Italian is excellent, but DeNiro never looks comfortable. The scene in which he and Monica Bellucci do a slow striptease by music and torchlight, looks awkward and ridiculous. Rome looks lovely however, and the balcony kiss by fireworks makes a pretty picture, even if it lacks real passion. The device of making cupid the taxi-driver is less than successful and rather irritating.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ages of Love is a surprisingly clumsy screenplay from Giovanni Veronesi and Ugo Chiti, trite, old fashioned and badly executed. The details don't warrant close examination, unless we want to get into an argument about younger women seducing older men, say, or infidelity as the device through which to explore love at various ages in a man's life.

I have no qualms about older men falling in love and there have been some lovely films about this subject in which they fall in love - with older women. But that aside, it's frustrating to be yanked around love stories in which we neither understand nor care for the characters. In the first section, Youth, we meet a young man in love with and engaged to an intelligent, loveable and beautiful young woman. Supposedly - because this emotional baby is easily distracted by another young woman, simply because he is away from home it seems.

In Maturity, where we might expect some, a childishly self important TV news anchor is taken for a sexual ride by a younger woman while he makes absurd clown faces. Carlo Verdone is a giant comedic figure in Italy, but on this performance we have to wonder why; is overstatement the new method acting? It's so hammy as to be irritating.

And saving the best till last, Veronesi gives us Robert De Niro and Monica Bellucci in the chapter coyly labelled 'Beyond'. True, De Niro brings some much needed gravitas in performance, some reality of character, as does Bellucci, but the story is woefully thin and manufactured. We still don't feel the joy that we should feel when in the hands of a great filmmaker, whose talents convince us of the truth of his story and the fullness of his characters.

I am sadly disappointed in this heavy handed and laboured film, watching it with a heavy heart as boredom takes hold and never lets go.

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(Italy, 2011)

Manuale d'am3re

CAST: Robert De Niro, Monica Bellucci, Laura Chiatti, Valeria Solerino, Michele Placido, Emanuele Propizio, Carlo Verdone, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ricardo Scamarcio

PRODUCER: Aurelio De Laurentiis, Luigi De Laurentiis Jr

DIRECTOR: Giovanni Veronesi

SCRIPT: Giovanni Veronesi, Ugo Chiti

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Giovanni Canevari

EDITOR: Patrizio Marone

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 24, 2011

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