Bruno (Gassman), a seemingly rootless, middle-aged bon vivant, breezes through life in a jaunty sports car, with a devil-may-care attitude. When by chance Bruno encounters Roberto (Trintignant), Bruno's magnetic personality sweeps the shy aspiring attorney along for a car-trip through the Italian countryside that stretches for two days. With visits to Roberto's family in the sticks and to Bruno's estranged wife and daughter (Spaak) at a chic seaside resort, the two men seem to be living "la dolce vita." But is it all too good to last?
Dino Risi's touchstone of "commedia all'italiana" delivers astue social commentary wrapped in a patina of frivolity and fun. In Bruno and Roberto, we confront contrasting approaches to life: anarchic freedom vs. stifling responsibility. Which is the right path? Gassman is an ever-moving ball of energy, infusing Bruno with qualities both attractive and repellent. Trintignant's Roberto, his innocent, awestruck foil, shares revealing voiceover about his new friend and their adventures. Risi films the hair-raising driving sequences (the title means "Overtaking") with terrifying immediacy; we sense an element of danger behind all the ceaseless motion and speed. Underappreciated in its day, now's the time to take this exuberant, riotous trip through Italy.