strange_complex: (All roads lead to Rome)
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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strange_complex: (C J Cregg)
I can't help feeling today rather like the Italian allies apparently felt on the eve of the Social War in 91 BC. They fought alongside the Romans on campaign, and were therefore profoundly affected by Roman foreign policy. Rome's enemies were their enemies, and Rome's campaigns were their campaigns. But they had no vote in Rome, and thus no say in the decision-making process that lay behind declarations of war.

Velleius Paterculus describes their situation thus:
In every year and in every war they served with twice as many foot and horse as the Romans, and yet were not given the right of citizenship in the very state which had reached through their efforts so high a position that it could look with contempt on men of the same race and blood as if they were outsiders and foreigners. (Roman History 2.15.2)
Their reaction was to rebel against Roman power, causing warfare throughout Italy: an action which in fact resulted in them getting exactly what they wanted, since the Romans realised that extending the vote to the whole of Italy was a small price to pay for peace and stability on their doorstep.

I'm not saying anything of the sort is either desirable or necessary now - it would be far better if the United States simply stopped throwing its weight around so much, and dragging the rest of us into its ill-thought-out wars. But I empathise with that sense of frustration. Today the world's future is being decided by the electorate of one nation. And all the rest of us can do is stand there crossing our fingers.

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