The quasi-magical realist film “In Search of Fellini” has its heart in the right place but wears its studied quirks on its sleeve, leading with influences and references rather than a strong story. Co-writer Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) draws from her personal experiences pursuing the legendary Italian film director Federico Fellini in her youth as the inspiration for this whimsical tale of film, fandom and finding your way in a very intimidating world.
Ksenia Solo stars as Lucy, a sheltered Ohio girl on the cusp of womanhood, who discovers the magic of Fellini films right as her mother, Claire (Maria Bello), is ready to push her gently from the nest. Anxious and completely unprepared for the workforce, Lucy hops a plane and finds herself lost in Verona in a Fellini-esque bacchanal.
As directed by Taron Lexton, you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not in “In Search of Fellini,” with handsome Italian men swooping in to save Lucy, calls to Fellini’s angry office manager, and nightmarish orgies of excess interspersed throughout this fantastical fable. Solo plays Lucy with wide-eyed naivete, and while cute, her constant haplessness and need to be rescued by men, from men, starts to grate. The plot makes not a lick of sense, but the imagery is striking, and the adoration of Fellini’s films comes through loud and clear.
‘In Search of Fellini’
Rated: R, for sexuality and nudity and language
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: AMC Dine-in Sunset 5, West Hollywood; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood