by Tom Long, Detroit News Film Critic, published on July 6, 2012 - 1:00 am|
"To Rome with Love" deals with mortality, celebrity, romance, infidelity and infatuation.
Yep, it's a Woody Allen movie.
Yet, in some ways, it's a very different sort of Woody Allen movie. The film follows four separate storylines, which don't intersect and aren't even necessarily playing out at the same time. Each focuses on one of Allen's famous preoccupations.
One features Roberto Benigni as an everyday middle-class guy who finds himself the subject of intense media scrutiny. TV hosts want to know what he had for breakfast, a camera is there to record him shaving, beautiful women throw themselves at him. He is the essence of unearned celebrity.
And then there's Allen himself, playing a retired opera impresario who discovers a mortician (Fabio Armiliato) with an astounding voice when he's singing in the shower. Equating retirement with death, Allen's character resolves to make the shower singer famous.
Both these storylines work, but the other two are less successful. One involves Italian newlyweds who become separated. The young man ends up passing a prostitute (Penélope Cruz) off as his new bride, while the actual bride gets caught up in an affair with a movie star.
The fourth story has Jesse Eisenberg cheating on his girlfriend, played by Greta Gerwig, with her self-involved best friend, played by Ellen Page, while Alec Baldwin offers otherworldly commentary. Page is miscast as a sexual dynamo, Gerwig is underused, and the triangle is too obvious.
Still, it's Woody Allen; and if "Rome" seems scattered and uneven, it's also thematically ambitious and occasionally hilarious. It's minor Woody, but it's still Woody.
'To Rome with Love'