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Meanwhile, another American student, Hayley (Alison Pill), has gotten engaged to a handsome young Italian lawyer named Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Her parents, Jerry (Woody) and Phyllis (Judy Davis), are on their way to Rome to meet their daughter’s fiancé. Upon arrival, they all pay a visit to Michelangelo’s parents. There, Jerry, a retired opera producer, discovers that Michelangelo’s father, Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), is a world-class singer. (Armiliato, making his movie debut, is actually a noted operatic tenor.) Unfortunately, Giancarlo only sings in the shower. Jerry, itching to break out of retirement, determines to make Giancarlo an opera star. Since Jerry’s own opera productions tended toward the avant-garde (staging Tosca in a phone booth, casting Rigoletto with mice), he feels he can work around this shower problem.
Then there’s a newlywed provincial couple, Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardo), who have just checked into a Roman hotel, and are awaiting a visit from Antonio’s straight-laced relatives. But then Milly goes out and gets lost in the teeming streets, leaving Antonio alone in their hotel room, where he’s soon surprised by the arrival of a spectacular call girl named Anna (Penélope Cruz), who has been prepaid to provide her services to a man who unfortunately is not Antonio. Then his relatives arrive to meet Antonio’s new bride—who unfortunately is not Anna. Although not for long.
Finally, we have a shlumpy office drone named Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a family man to whom nothing of interest has ever happened—until he steps out of his apartment one day and is accosted by a gaggle of tabloid reporters. He protests that they must have mistaken him for someone famous. But then a limo pulls up and he finds himself being driven to a TV studio, where he makes a talk-show appearance that turns him suddenly into a national star. Soon he’s being harried for autographs and hit upon by gorgeous women who want to sleep with him. Leopoldo is appalled by this unexpected glitter storm…although not entirely.
The movie is an exercise in virtuoso confusion. Despite its structural complexity, it never wanders into incoherence or mindless clamor. It doesn’t have the perfect fantasy glow of Midnight in Paris, but it does offer the uncommon pleasures of trimly wrought dialogue, witty situations, and some fine comic actors who seem happy to be serving their director’s familiar purposes. Which, depending on your Woodman stance, I suppose, could be enough.