by Phil Wallace, published on June 20, 2012 - 5:43 pm|
At the age of 76, Woody Allen is still remarkably churning out movies every year. His latest effort, To Rome with Love, marks the 31st consecutive year in which hes directed a film thats been released. Unfortunately, if youre hoping to see an Italian version of Midnight in Paris, then know the clock really did strike midnight on that production last year. To Rome with Love offers a charming setup, but ultimately proves to be a meandering mess.
To Rome with Love is actually four separate films interspersed into one movie. Unlike other movies that have multiple plotlines, none of the characters and stories intersect in this film. In fact, they all apparently take place over separate time periods as well, despite the shifting back and forth between stories.
One storyline stars Alison Pill as an American tourist who meets and falls in love with Roman fiancé Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Pills parents are played by Allen and Judy Davis and they fly into Rome to meet Michelangelo and his family. Allen plays a former record industry executive, and when he hears Michelangelos father Giancarlo (played by renowned Italian tenor Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower, he immediately schemes to make Giancarlo a famous opera singer.
Another storyline features Jack and Sally (played by Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig) as a young couple studying in Rome. When Sallys out-of-work actress friend Monica (Ellen Page) comes to visit, Jack quickly becomes smitten with her carefree pseudo-intellectual style. He debates whether or not to sleep with Monica with a famous American architect played by Alec Baldwin. While there is an apparent real-life interaction between Baldwins and Eisenbergs characters in the beginning, Baldwin apparently morphs into a ghost or a life-sized thought bubble who dispenses imaginary advice to multiple characters.
A third storyline involves Roberto Benigni as Leopaldo, a very average middle-class Italian family man. Leopaldo wakes up one morning and literally becomes the most famous celebrity in all of Italy for reasons that are never really explained.
The fourth storyline features Antonio and Milly, a young provincial couple played by Italian actors Alessando Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi. Antonio is set to start a new job at his uncles business and there are plans for the young couple to spend a day with Romes business elite. The couple accidentally gets separated though, and Antonio winds up having a prostitute (played by Penelope Cruz) embarrassingly pretend to be his wife. At the same time, Milly ends up spending the day with one of Italys most famous actors.
The storyline involving Allen, Davis, Pill, and Armiliato was probably the most fun. Its a typical quirky Allen story with a fun plot twist that manages to maintain its charm for the 30 minutes or so its on screen. Allen essentially plays the same person hes played in a dozen other films, and Davis and Pill do a fine job of fitting into Allens neatly crafted caricatures. Even if youre not an opera fan, you cant help but be entertained by Armiliatos booming shower-enabled voice.
The Eisenberg-Gerwig-Page-Baldwin storyline shows some promise in the beginning, but ultimately gets tedious. Baldwins unannounced change from real person to ghost-Alec Baldwin makes virtually no sense, and becomes a distraction. It was as if Allen had seen some 30 Rock episodes and wanted a constant Jack Donaghy-Liz Lemon dynamic throughout. But Eisenberg isnt as funny as Tina Fey. And while the older mentor act worked with Michael Douglas in Solitary Man, the fact that the advice is imagined takes away from its impact.
Page is the real star of this storyline, as she nails the part of a cute short girl whose subtle sexual energy turns overwhelming. Some of the films best parts involve her flippantly referring to famous artists, pretending to know what shes talking about. Unfortunately, Gerwigs considerable talents are wasted in this film, as shes essentially asked to play a cold and stiff girlfriend.
For Benigni, this film marks a rare appearance for an actor who has scarcely appeared on the big screen since winning an Oscar for 1997s Life is Beautiful. His plotline really makes no sense. While its momentarily funny to see an ordinary man chased around by paparazzi, dating models, and being quizzed about his breakfast, the act gets old really quickly. Its not clear if this is some kind of Allen commentary on reality show stars or the Kardashian family or something else, but the whole premise doesnt work.
The Tiberi-Mastronardi-Cruz storyline is also forgettable. While Cruz is always a treat to look at, this storyline again gets tedious.
Overall, Allen tries to convey that Rome is a place where anything can happen. In each of the four stories, theres some element thats fantastical and completely out of the realm of believability. This approach worked in Midnight in Paris, when Owen Wilsons character kept going back in time and meeting famous writers and artists. But To Rome with Love isnt nearly as smooth in accomplishing this.
There is a certain charm in the beginning of the film as each of the four plotlines get set up. But after the first 30 minutes, the four stories slowly go off the rails as they become weirder and weirder. Allens European tour has had its hits like the aforementioned Paris, as well as Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Match Point. But its also had misses like You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Count this one in the miss category.