I Vitelloni was Federico Fellini's third film, and it shows very well how he was maturing in his style, and likewise very well how he was not yet fully mature. His next film would be La Strada, one of the world's great films. I Vitelloni, although many who have had the chance to see it champion it as one of his best, is a tier down from La Strada and his other melodramatic masterpiece, Nights of Cabiria (his other masterpieces, IMO, are La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, and Amarcord of those I've seen, which are all of the ones that are generally considered to be great; I'd also make a case for And the Ship Sails On). The film's flaws are mostly in the script: it is sloppy. There are several great scenes, a couple of the best, especially in a visual aspect, that Fellini ever created, but more often the actions of the characters are difficult to understand. The characters themselves aren't all that well defined - in a scene that has since become common, the five title characters are introduced to us by a narrator, who tells us certain primary traits for each of them. Sadly, we only learn a bit more about most of them. What really harms the film, though, is the fact that a few of these main characters are difficult to distinguish from one another. To make things worse, as time moves on in the film, the characters constantly change the style of their facial hair!
The film is quite episodic, which is actually Fellini's most common way of going about it, but most of the events in his better films seem to bear more weight on the emotions of the films. I Vitelloni is still a very good film, but, given its unavailability, it's unnecessary to knock yourself down searching it out. Perhaps Criterion will release it on DVD soon. Maybe, if it has some good extras, I'll purchase it. 8/10.