by Todd Jorgenson, published on June 22, 2012|
The latest entry in the European travelogue of Woody Allen is To Rome with Love, a breezy but uneven ensemble comedy thats mediocre by the standards of the venerable filmmaker.
Italy makes four foreign countries that the prolific Allen has put on film during the past decade, for those keeping score. And like his prior visits to London, Barcelona and Paris, the 76-year-old director makes his affinity for the setting clear in his latest film.
He showcases Roman landmarks in visually captivating style. Its too bad Allens wafer-thin script about the misadventures and romantic roundelays of more than a dozen visitors and residents in Rome doesnt offer the same level of stimulation.
Essentially, the film contains four storylines, the most prominent of which features Allen himself, marking his first acting role since Scoop six years ago.
Allen hogs many of the best one-liners as Jerry, a retired opera director with a sardonic younger wife (Judy Davis) familiar territory, indeed who transports his Manhattan neuroses overseas for the wedding of his daughter (Alison Pill). Jerry later discovers that the grooms mortician father (Fabio Armiliato) is a first-class tenor, but only in the shower, which leads him to hatch a crazy scheme.
Another vignette involves Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), a blue-collar clerk who suddenly is whisked into a life of fame involving paparazzi, fashion models and A-list celebrity status. His bewildered yet good-natured reactions are one of the films highlights.
Also in the mix are newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), who check into a hotel in order to meet his family. But she gets lost in the streets, then a sexy escort (Penelope Cruz) shows up to entertain Antonio just before his relatives burst through the door. That leads to a round of mistaken identities.
The final thread is a disappointing letdown considering the bright young talent involved. Jack is an architecture student living in the city with his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig), whose actress friend (Ellen Page) pays a visit and throws the relationship out of whack.
The performances are uniformly strong, as expected, and Allens fans will find some amusement in this old-fashioned romantic comedy, even if it wears out its welcome before the finish.
Both whimsically silly and charmingly absurd, the film toys with various coincidences among its characters without enough consistency or realistic grounding to resonate as anything more than a trifle.