Making the Grades
Beth (Kristen Bell) is married to her career and that’s not all bad. The up-and-coming art curator is planning a big show, one that will solidify her position at the museum where she works under the scrutinizing glare of her director (Anjelica Huston). But in her personal relationships, Beth doesn’t do so well.
Chalk it up to her demanding schedule or the poor example she has in her father (Don Johnson), a serial romantic who is currently marrying his way through a string of wives. The poor state of her love life comes to the forefront when both her ex-boyfriend (Lee Pace) and her younger sister (Alexis Dziena) announce their separate engagements. Invited to attend her sister’s wedding in Rome, Beth squeezes in a 48-hour whirlwind escape from her New York office and flies to the Italian capital to play maid of honor.
Standing at the alter, the wedding party waits for the groom’s (Luca Calvani) best man to arrive. Finally a rumpled Nick (Josh Duhamel) rushes into the chapel, stumbling over himself and dropping his phone as he scurries up the aisle. It’s not exactly love at first sight but by the end of the evening (and with enough champagne) Beth, in a cleavage-baring gown, is starting to like the guy. At least she is until she catches him smooching a dark-haired local girl (Valentina Roma).
Despairing over her situation, the inebriated sister of the bride steps into one of the city’s famous fountains and pulls out a handful of coins thrown in by people looking for love. Unbeknownst to her, the simple action casts a magical spell and suddenly the guys who lobbed the tokens find themselves smitten by Beth.
Back in New York, she is hounded by the unexpectedly besotted bachelors; a street magician (Jon Heder), a male model (Dax Shepard), a middle-aged sausage maker (Danny Devito) and an aspiring artist (Will Arnett) who paints a huge, full frontal nude mural of her on the side of a city building. In addition, she gets calls from the klutzy best man who works as a sportswriter in town. Yet as she finds herself falling for Nick, she fears their budding romance is only the result of her coin-collecting spree as well.
Like most romantic comedies that occur in a condensed time period, this script has plenty of manufactured moments designed to hurry along the plot. In this case it’s the spell that seemingly forces the men to fall in love with Beth and hunt her down like bloodhounds. Unfortunately most of these characters are so out of the ordinary that it is easy to understand why she feels like she is being stalked instead of courted. Beth’s hot and cold responses to Nick (passionate kissing one minute, cold shoulder the next) also make it hard to understand why he keeps pursuing her—unless of course he is compelled by the enchantment.
Yet even with some clunky editing and unbelievable circumstances, When In Rome conjures up enough comedic charm and redeeming moments to make it a tolerable choice for older teens and adults who are looking for love at the movies.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about When In Rome.
Nick takes Beth to a pitch-black restaurant where patrons eat in total darkness. And the eating establishment doesn’t appear to be a hoax. Would you enjoy an experience like this? What reservations might you have?
How does Beth’s work impact her personal life? Do you think she uses it as an excuse to avoid love? Is there a way to balance the two?