Moviegoers of a certain age — an age not far from that of the average Sex and the City devotee — may recall the ads for General Foods International Coffees, powdered flavor concoctions that promised an instant return to that fabulous trip to Vienna (or Paris, or the Swiss Alps) you took once, before your life turned to garbage. “Celebrate the moments of your life!,” the nostalgia-dripping TV spots cooed. While those micro-narratives generally starred just the people who made the memories in question, Sarah Jessica Parker forces a daughter to join her trip down memory lane in Ella Lemhagen’s All Roads Lead to Rome, going for a two-week vacation next door to the handsome Italian man who got away. No wonder the girl is so grumpy in this hackwork rom-com, which will slip quickly from theaters to an ancillary release sure to milk the star’s name for a little, but not too much, cash.
Parker’s recently divorced Maggie hauls daughter Summer (Rosie Day) from Manhattan to rural Tuscany, wearily dodging the teen’s scowls in an attempt to save her from the bad-news boyfriend who wants her to tell police the five kilos of pot they caught him with belonged to her. Maggie claims to be shocked that Luca (Raoul Bova), the man she had a fling with before marrying Summer’s dad, owns the villa next door to the cottage she has rented; still, it would only be good form for the women to accept his invitation for a drink in his garden.
Before the second glass of wine is poured, Summer has stolen a Fiat with the assistance of Luca’s mother Carmen (Claudia Cardinale), agreeing to drop the possibly senile woman in Rome before hopping a plane to take the rap for that no-good boy.
The chase that ensues barely deserves the name, as Maggie and Luca have their quarry in sight on more than one occasion, only to lose them in increasingly hard-to-believe ways. Well, screenwriters Cindy Myers and Josh Appignanesi may believe the delays, as they create opportunities to extend their dueling heart-to-heart road trips: While Mom is coming to understand she’s a control freak who needs to go with the flow sometimes, her daughter is being taught by Carmen to slow down and enjoy the charms of a foreign country. (The film gets just enough Italian color onscreen to satisfy armchair tourists.)
All Roads Lead to Rome has something potentially endearing in Carmen’s quest to reunite with a pop star she knew 50 years ago, but it is less interested in this storyline than in the much-too-predictable foibles of its younger stars. These characters (Summer in particular) drop key personality traits whenever the plot wants them to, fumbling toward a happy ending that’s even easier than pouring hot water over a heap of instant coffee.
Distributor: eOne Entertainment
Production companies: Paradox Studios, Ambi Pictures
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Day, Raoul Bova, Claudia Cardinale, Paz Vega
Director: Ella Lemhagen
Screenwriters: Cindy Myers, Josh Appignanesi
Producers: Monika Bacardi, Andrea Lervolino, Silvio Muraglia, Fredrik Zander
Executive producers: Jason Garrett, Alexandra Kim, Frank Konigsberg, David Rogers, Mikael Wiren, David Wyler
Director of photography: Gergely Poharnok
Production designer: Massimiliano Forlenza
Costume designer: Moa Li Lemhagen Schalin
Editor: Thomas Lagerman
Composer: Alfonso Gonzalez Aguilar
Rated PG-13, 91 minutes