by Jeffrey Huston, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer, published on Friday, July 6, 2012|
Release Date: June 22, 2012 limited; July 6 wide
Rating: R (for some sexual references, situations, and brief strong language)
Run Time: 102 min
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Alison Pill
Woody Allen has given us several film classics over the five decades hes been making movies. Others in his catalog would be appropriately marginalized as Minor Allen. Then theres something like To Rome With Love, which is basically Lazy Allen. Sure, even Lazy Allen displays Woodys distinct voice for dialogue along with his comic energy and flights of fancy, but here those elements never come together in any meaningful, memorable or emotional way. You get the sense that Allen really doesnt care enough to make sure that they do.
Emphasizing this lack of ambition is the fact that To Rome With Love isnt even a fully developed story. Rather, its a collection of four short stories, intercut and patchworked together, each remaining independent of the other, never overlapping or colliding. Their only link is the city in which they take place: The Eternal City Rome.
One of the stories is sparked by a metaphysical twist, another by adultery, a third by a mix of both, and the fourth is simply a prolonged goof. Allen co-stars in one while the other three have his archetypal neurotic surrogates. Basically what we have are four concepts that Allen didnt have the inclination to develop into individual feature-length stories. Instead, it seems he just took the ideas as-is and threw them together by placing them in the same locale.
Much of what happens is predicated by twists of fate, ones that rather than feeling magical come off as quick fixes to advance narratives (taxing our ability to suspend disbelief). The stories feel like first-drafts that Allen never fleshed out or substantiated. At age 76 perhaps thats understandable, maybe even a little forgivable, but the net result is still lackluster given the bar Allens set for himself.
The most star-studded of the vignettes involves the mix of infidelity with the mystical. Alec Baldwin (It's Complicated) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) play strangers who share a love of architecture Baldwins John is a world famous pro vacationing in Rome, Eisenbergs Jack is an idealistic student studying there.
The two fatefully cross paths. The older John soon realizes the younger Jack has an eerily similar life to his when he was a student studying in Rome right down to the young sexual dynamo Monica (a poorly-cast Ellen Page, Inception) who looks to tempt Jack away from his stable girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig, Arthur). Its as if Johns been given a chance to right a former wrong. He essentially becomes the personification of Jacks conscience, trying to steer him from making the bad choices that he himself made, even appearing over Jacks shoulder at odd and intimate moments.