by Daniel Delago, published on July 7, 2012|
Woody Allens most recent love letter to Europe, To Rome with Love takes place in Italys Eternal City. As a fan of Allens body of work, I find it best to enjoy each film on its own merits. To make comparisons to last years successful film, Midnight in Paris is a big mistake. Like a frothy cappuccino, Allens latest film is a delightful, lighthearted comedy. Maybe it isnt a masterwork but it is charming on many levels. Besides the stellar ensemble cast the film includes the maestro himself, Woody Allen. He might be older but he can still dish out the one-liners. I was never a communist, I could never share a bathroom, Allens character quips on the airplane to Rome.
As a screenwriter, Allens work ethic is commendable. After finishing a movie, he never rests on his laurels. He constantly moves forward and begins writing his next movie. One interesting point regarding his writing process is that he still uses an old-fashioned Olympus typewriter that he purchased 50 years ago to hammer out his screenplays. I recommend watching the documentary, Woody Allen: A Documentary by Robert Weide (director of the hit comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm). Without fail, Allen churns out one movie a year. His films still deal with universal themes of love and death. When youre making that many films, youre bound to hit the occasional ground ball versus hitting it out of the park every time.
To Rome with Love on the surface is a whimsical comedy but if you dig deeper into the four storylines, it contemplates serious themes such as romance, fame, legacy and longing. That is the genius behind Allens comedy. He can take a serious subject and see the absurdities in it. The ensemble cast is spread over four revolving vignettes. Alec Baldwin is funny to watch as an aging architect, John who gets nostalgic for his youth. It happens to be my favorite story in the film. By chance, Baldwin runs into a young college student, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) on the streets. By the way, Eisenberg plays the perfect young Woody Allen role to a tee. Jack's girlfriend is Sally (Greta Gerwig) and she invites her best friend, Monica (Ellen Page) to stay with them for a while. Sally warns Jack that he will love Monica like everyone does. Well, you guessed it, Jack is attracted to Monica.
The other story that is enjoyable is the one with Woody Allen in it. Allen and Judy Davis play parents visiting their daughter (Alison Pill) whos fallen in love with the son (Flavio Parenti) of a funeral director (Fabio Armiliato). The undertaker sings in a beautiful operatic tenor voice but heres the catch; he can only sing well in the shower. Allens character Jerry is a retired opera director and music producer. Jerry sees retirement as a death sentence (get it, Fabio is a funeral director) and so sees this as an opportunity to represent him as his business manager. In real life, Fabio Armiliato is a world-renowned Italian tenor.
The other two stories have to do with a young Italian newlywed couple. What makes this story work is the introduction of Penelope Cruz in a stunning scarlet red dress. She plays a prostitute and she is a scene stealer. There is a funny scene at a party where she pretends to be the fiancé and it is something straight out of a Marx Brothers comedy. The fourth story deals with the quintessential nebbish, Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) in his first American film since he won the Oscar for Life is Beautiful (1997). I found this story wore thin after a while but the theme of fame was quite interesting. It deals with those celebrities (Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian types) that are famous for being famous. Leopoldo wakes up one morning and becomes the object of paparazzi. The interesting message about this story is Allens view on the burden of celebrity. Basically, fame is a drag but its preferable to remaining poor. I tend to agree.
Woody Allens To Rome with Love is a fun afternoon at the matinee on a hot summer day. With temperatures soaring in the triple digits this weekend in Boise, you might want to relax in the air-conditioned Flicks theatre and celebrate the fact that Woody Allen still makes entertaining films.