Vittorio De Sica is often not given enough credit when unfairly compared to the likes of Fellini and Visconti, but he does make a solid romantic comedy. Is it a bit melodramatic? Sure, but so was all of Italy in the 1960's. Marcello Mastroianni is as charming and funny as ever, and Sophia Loren is magnificent and beautiful. Her iconic curtain scene is alone worth it.
a bit too melodramatic and saccharine near the end (fighting into a kiss then finally pronouncing your love for each other ultimately resulting in marriage? really?) the scene where the boys reunite and Riccardo eats the pastry the exact same way is really cute though.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don't think this film works well at all. The comedy falls flat, the drama is forced and everything feels overly drawn out with no real depth to fill the space. I think De Sica was the least interesting of his generation of filmmakers. Watching Marcello makes the film watchable. Otherwise, it's no better than any standard American romantic comedy.
This is that side of Italian cinema I hate. De Sica does love his melodramas. Divorce Italian Style was a genuine commentary on Italian society. This is "Men must be tricked into marriage." He wants to marry the virgin, not the whore. Which is a double standard for the ladies man. Lots of bad messages for women, especially since marriage is better for men than it is women.
On one level, it's a 60s-era rom-com full of great cinematography, acting and chemistry. It's De Sica after all. On another level, it's a light but tragic exploration of a misogynistic society. On a higher level still, it's transcendent, perhaps even in feminist terms if one's heart is open because the heroine survives rejection, shame, despair, and even catharsis with dignity and honor.