|Not quite the reaction Allen should expect from this film.
To Rome With Love
After a return to celebrated form with the romantically nostalgic Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen no doubt thought he was onto a good thing in using European cities as the focus of his cinematic yarns. But alas what was charming and clever in the former, is careless and derivative in To Rome With Love.
We flit randomly between four sets of stories. Woody Allen is a retired opera director who upon hearing his daughter’s father-in law to be singing in the shower is inspired to restart his career. Alec Baldwin is an aimless architect advising a fretful, younger version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg on truly indecisive, insufferable form) on choosing between two women; neither of whom I might add are particularly alluring. (Greta Gerwig as serious student Sally and Ellen Page as mischievous actress Monica – the stereotypes couldn’t be more painfully obvious). Two young newlyweds get separated and each discovers themselves sexually with the help of hooker Penelope Cruz. Oh, and regular working guy Roberto Benigni whom complains that no-one listens to him, one day wakes up as the most famous guy on the planet for absolutely no reason at all. It doesn’t feel as if Allen is scraping the barrel for material here at all.
To exacerbate matters it is utterly indulgent. As if Allen is resting on his laurels and fast-waning reputation to draw in audiences rather than offering a worthwhile plot or in fact any point to making the film whatsoever. Indeed that can be the only reason and perhaps the lure of a paid holiday to Italy that enticed such a star-studded cast.
Rome itself is the only saving grace, which is admittedly beautiful shot. But even then we see it as a tourist might, stopping by the Colloseum, the Trevi Fountain, a storm-surrounded Pantheon and ivy-lined cobbled streets. Rome is glorified but not discovered. Allen pans around the city as if flicking through a handful of postcards and the stories themselves have no real attachment to it.
Whereas Paris really was a muse for the writers such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald that featured in Midnight in Paris, you get the feeling this could have been set anywhere. There is no real narrative or interconnection between the four seemingly random vignettes. And what’s worse the characters in them are unlikeable, anxious, neurotic and morally vacuous. The complete lack of resolution or significance to the stories may be acceptable had they been enjoyable to engage with, but the characters talk too much, whine and actually have nothing much to say.
Whilst Baldwin and Cruz clearly have fun with their roles and Benigni playing the fool as he does best, everyone else are cookie-cutter caricatures for which there is little time or reason for sympathy or attachment.
Allen touches upon some more meaningful themes – the tenuousness and idiocy of celebrity, cross-cultural communication, the hardship of marriage and love and all that jazz, but by leaving ends untied and stories hurried, it has more holes in it than a perfectly baked focaccia bread.
And did I mention this was meant to be a comedy? You might be laughing at the sheer insanity of it all, but not at the jokes themselves let me assure you.
Under-written, uneven and un-enchanting.