by Barbara Snitzer, published on July 6, 2012 - 6:07 AM PDT|
Woody Allens latest offering charts his European Travel Period down south to Rome, Italy in To Rome With Love.
Fortunately, it proves a cure for the hangover Ive had since the atrocious Midnight in Paris. (While I was not able to review that film in a timely manner, know that I HATED it. I realize many people disagree with me; of course they are entitled to their wrong opinion.)
Criminally, I have not set foot on Italian soil, but Im going to give Woody the benefit of the doubt to say he captured the feeling of Italy since he did indeed capture the chilly, dull tones that of London in You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger that I know from living there.
The film opens with a beautiful drive around Rome, the terminus a traffic cop ineptly evoking Marcel Marceau as he directs the non-existent traffic likely the result of the presence of a large movie crew. This welcome, overacted in unintelligible English, is the only appearance from this irrelevant character. Having studied theater, Im guessing hes supposed deliver a prologue, akin to a warm-up comedian. Fallire. Rather, he is an omen of unevenness and failed expectations. The movie tells several disappointingly unrelated tales, all without a strong narrative, and, again, a cast of mostly annoying rich Americans (not unlike some of the characters in MIP).
So, how could I have any like for this movie?
First of all, Allen is not the main character (although a version of him is, played by Jesse Eisenberg), and he is enfin coupled with an age appropriate spouse (played by Judy Davis)! Carol Alt (who has appeared in many Italian movies) and Ornella Muti are also age appropriate, bravo Woody! They are glamourously inspiring, unusual for a Woody Allen movie. Refreshingly hes more funny than irritating this time, having returned to the kind of screwball comedy of his 1970s movies. I hope he realizes he is stronger as part of an ensemble. While his character does become obsessed with another, its not whom you would expect. And the results are hysterical.
Secondly, Allen generously gives his best lines to Alec Baldwin who steals every scene in which he appears. Baldwins character is the least insufferable of the visiting Americans, playing an architect who is forced, by the beauty of Rome, to confront selling out his artistic soul. He meets up with a younger architect (Eisenberg) to whom he becomes a mentor and voice of conscience.
Thirdly, Rome. Cities always look better on film, and foreigners tend to see the beauty their citizens take for granted. The cinematography bathes the city in warm fauve tones that elicit relaxed summer evenings of hours long outside dinners.
Finally, laying eyes on the actor Flavio Parente. Someone please introduce us. Not entirely kidding. And Penelope Cruz is excellent.
Unfortunately, theres more bad than good.
While Jesse Eisenberg is an improvement over Owen Wilson as the young nebbish, hes still annoying and acts like hes in an acting class.
Roberto Benigni plays Roberto Benigni suddenly and almost inexplicably cast into life as a Kardashian, i.e. he becomes famous for no reason. Equally inexplicable, he seems to be the only man in Italy who wears ill-fitting suits.
Ellen Page is completely miscast as Greta Gerwigs visiting American friend: a neurotic, unstable, amoral, bi-curious only to titillate, pseudo-intellectual, non-working actress from LA. Ellen Page is articulate, in-control, and while pretty, not sensual or manipulative. A better choice would have been Paz de la Huerta or even Lindsay Lohan (whose insurance bond probably would have exceeded the movies budget). Was this role really that hard to cast? In LA, you cant vomit up your lunch without running into 5 women like this.
Alec Baldwin accompanies Eisenbergs pursuit of Page, adding commentary and advice. In some scenes Baldwin appears visible to all characters present, in others it seems only Eisenberg can see him. This confusion is a sad gaffe for such an esteemed director. Had the role been better cast, and this distinction made clear, Alec Baldwins withering tirade exposing Pages facade would have been even more delicious. In any case, I still want to have it printed on a business card to have at the ready for future cocktail parties.
Its summertime, go take a trip to Rome.
Rating: 2 1/2 of 5 Stars