movie film review | chris tookey

To Rome With Love

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  To Rome With Love Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
4.89 /10
Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig
Full Cast >

Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen

Released: 2012
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US/ Italy/ Spain
Colour: C
Length: 122

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Woody Allen’s last film, Midnight in Paris, was his best for ages. To Rome With Love, set in the Eternal City, is overall a disappointment, but has moments of wit and charm. Darius Khondji's cinematography establishes the right, romantic mood.

It’s four stories in one. The first and worst is about a boring Italian (Roberto Benigni) who wakes up to find himself famous for no reason. He revels in his celebrity but then longs for privacy. It’s toothless satire, lazily written and much too broadly played.

Almost as disappointing is a story of a naive young Italian husband and his pretty wife (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) who come to the big city where the husband has been offered a job by relatives. Thanks to some unlikely farcical misunderstandings, the husband has to pretend that an expensive prostitute (Penelope Cruz) is his wife, while his real wife is tempted into adultery with a famous film star (Antonio Albanese).

Woody’s point in this crude little farce is that infidelity can be good for a marriage. I’m not sure that Mia Farrow, or indeed many other women faced with Allen’s embarrassingly sexist stereotypes, will be amused. I wasn’t.

Slightly more bearable is the third strand, where a retired avant-garde opera director (Allen himself) comes to Rome with his longsuffering, sarcastic wife (the great Judy Davis) to meet the parents of their daughter (Alison Pill) who’s marrying an Italian left-wing lawyer (Flavio Parenti).

There develops a nicely surreal storyline about the boy’s mortician father (Fabio Armiliato) being an outstanding tenor who can sing only while showering.

“He’s going to be the most popular opera singer in the world!” crows Woody. “Certainly the cleanest,” rasps Davis.

But even this story is slight and laboured. An awful lot of it looks like deleted scenes from Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

Easily the best storyline, and the one that should have been developed further, concerns a nervy young architect called Jack (Jesse Eisenberg, pictured right) who’s torn between his live-in lover (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend, a self-centred actress (Ellen Page) who’s a pretentious poseur but sexually irresistible.

The talented Eisenberg and self-confident Page work well together, in a way that reminded me pleasurably of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan.

Laughs are also generated by Jack’s alter ego, John (Alec Baldwin, pictured left), an architect who may be Jack’s older self or even his ghost, who comments ironically on young love rather as the shade of Humphrey Bogart did in Allen’s theatre comedy Play It Again, Sam.

Even this aspect is messed up, as Allen won’t clarify who or what John is, and confuses matters by allowing other characters than Jack to see John. It wouldn’t have killed Allen to be stylistically coherent, but he’s past caring.

To Rome With Love is carelessly written, uneven in quality, and nowhere near as charming as Midnight in Paris; but its good points place it in the lower-middle range of Allen’s output. You should enjoy bits of it.

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