by David Edelstein, published on June 17, 2012|
At times it looked as likely as squeezing blood from a stone, but Woody Allens creative juices can still flowand flow freely, without fussiness or solemnity, as in his wonderfully buoyant, overlapping omnibus comedy To Rome With Love. At 76, hes working compulsively fast, death ever closer on his heels, and cutting through the inessentials, flouting naturalism and following his always-great absurdist instincts to their illogical (but resonant) ends. He portrays Rome as a city of roundabouts, from the traffic circle that opens the film to the Coliseum to the piazzas with their seemingly endless points of entry. Its a city thats ancient and sublime and yet farce is intrinsic to it. And its the perfect stage for Allens peculiar inner worlda place where men will always long for women they cant have, where the women they do have undermine them, where paparazzi swarm out of nowhere on the latest undeserving celebrities, where fame is both a blessing and a curse.
Kudos to Allens casting directors, Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Beatrice Kruger, and longtime associate Juliet Taylor for once more getting him the hippest actors of the day, all evidently thrilled to work for near scale. The always-winning stammerer Jesse Eisenberg is an American who thinks hes fine and dandy with a girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) whos just too stable, at which point her actress friend (Ellen Page) arrives to hypnotize him with her hyperliterate stream of references and stories about sexual escapadesanother tantalizing neurotic shiksa goddess, borderline untouchable the way girlfriends gal pals or sisters will be. Allen provides him with a fantasy companion, a suave older man (Alec Baldwin) who warns him hes walking into a propeller. But walk this boy-man does because in Allens sex-charged dreams he has to. Whats wonderfully surreal about Baldwins scenes is that Allen doesnt bother to make him invisible to other characters. They listen to his acid commentary and continue on their ridiculous tracks.