Trapped in a timeless sphere without pressure of accomplishment, maternal love nurses five men way past their adolescence in a small tourist town by the Adriatic Sea in post-war Italy. These five men drift around dreaming of an escape from the town, but a lack of motivation keeps them prisoners at the seaside location. The mutual motivations for the five men that keeps them adrift are women, wine, and the stories they tell each other. However, each character has his own motivating factor that drives him forward in daily life.
The group of the five men consists of Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste), Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini), and Moraldo. The group's leader Fausto, a perpetual flirter, has gotten a young beautiful woman pregnant. Fausto's father insists that he do the right thing and marry the girl before she is disgraced in public. The lazy Alberto is the groups clown who is dependent on his mother whom he will never leave. Alberto frequently pleads for money from his sister as he is continuously broke. Eventually Alberto finds out that his sister has a married lover and it angers him. Leopold an aspiring writer and the intellectual of the group dreams of fame and success. The singer Riccardo follows the group on its nightly adventures. Moraldo is a philosophical moralist that wanders the streets at night deep in thought as he sees faults in the way they all live life. However, Moraldo has not yet found the courage to leave the small seaside town.
I Vitelloni is the second film that Fellini directed by himself which he also co-wrote with his talented brother, Riccardo Fellini. Riccardo and Federico based the script on semi-autographical accounts from their home town and a life which they both were very much inclined to depict. Unlike many of Fellini's later films I Vitelloni displays some of the Italian neo-realistic cinematic qualities that were common in the period when the film was shot. The realism brings an honest and warm atmosphere to the film which emphasizes the true nature of the characters. Realism in the script allows the audience is to experience an examination of the different characters in the film. This character study brings the audience candid emotions and a brilliant cinematic experience that warms the heart as there are hopes and dreams for us all.