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1. When in Rome (2002), dir. Steve Purcell

Yes, yes - you may point and laugh as much as you like. This is a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen film, after all. But it is set in Rome, and I've been curious for a while to see how that would play in the world of manufactured American preteen fashion. And anyway, I 'watched' it more as background wallpaper while browsing LJ this morning than anything else.

So, Rome in the world of the Olsen twins was in practice mainly about food, fashion, sunshine and boys - as you would expect. But the ancient ruins and Renaissance monuments did feature quite heavily, albeit mainly for their picturesque value, and the girls did enthuse at the beginning of the film about 'all the history' in the city, including Caesar - 'and I don't just mean Caesar salad!' There were also some (fairly basic) attempts to explore cultural differences, and show how the American characters and the Italian characters each had valuable perspectives to contribute - nothing very deep, but a creditable attempt at least.

The story was fairly pappy - the Olsens were summer interns in a fashion company, where they initially messed up. But the big boss (basically a kind of God-figure who had infinite riches and really just wanted to open an artists' colony) plucked them from the bottom of the barrel and gave them one more chance - and guess what? They soon turned out to have hitherto-unsuspected talents in photography and fashion design, which, coupled with their positive, can-do attitude, helped them not only to win an internship for the following summer in New York, but also to save the entire company from the evil machinations of the boss's corrupt deputy. Hooray!

Obviously there was quite a lot of heterosexual coupling-up at the end - 'cos that's the real definition of happiness, right? The big boss asked the attractive female head-of-design who he'd been secretly in love with for years to marry him, and one of the twins (don't ask me which) looked forward to spending the following summer with an Italian fellow-intern who had accompanied her on her journey to success. But I was actually quite impressed with the other twin. She had been spending quite a lot of time with the big boss's nephew, who was basically a wastrel who wanted nothing more than to bum around and surf - and she had been telling him to get some motivation and self-respect all the way through the film. At the end, inevitably, he turned into a team-player and helped to save the company - but when he tried for a kiss in the final scene, she still told him that she didn't think so, and a hug would do. Which is hardly a cultural revolution - but I still thought it was nice that they showed at least one female character choosing independence and career goals over some guy who didn't really look like he was going to be very compatible with that.

So, fundamentally lightweight candyfloss - but quite well-meaning in a limited sort of way, and with some very nice location shots. And at least I've seen it now.

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