In a small seaside town in Italy, Moraldo Rubini (Franco Interlenghi), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Fausto Moretti (Franco Fabrizi), Leopoldo Vannucci (Leopoldo Trieste) and Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini) form a group of idle friends that spend their time together doing nothing but drinking, flirting and going to parties. When Fausto's girlfriend Sandra Rubini (Eleonora Ruffo) gets pregnant, he is pressed by his own father to marry her. However, the irresponsible Fausto remains unfaithful to Sandra, cheating her with many women and almost leading his family to a tragedy.
I Vitelloni seems like an important step in what became Fellini's career, and though it lacks the "Fellini-esque" style that he later trademarked in his classics La Dolce Vita, (his best) 8 1/2, and Amarcord, it doesn't suffer from it - a lot of times it felt like Fellini was showing a style that would further flourish even though it didn't contain the sensational imagery. Like in the films that later took inspiration from this (director Martin Scorsese lists it as a main influence on his masterpiece Mean Streets), Fellini shows his characters for being brutally human, and for that he adds some fine comedic moments in with the drama. For instance, Fausto and his friends go looking in desperation for Sandra and the baby after she discovered his adultery and on the way during their search there's a hilarious joke involving some workers they pass by on the road. Little moments like that, among others, are what make Fellini and this film unique, certainly in the director's top ten.