by Dustin Chase, published on July 11, 2012|
To Rome With Love, starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page, directed by Woody Allen, R, 102 minutes.
Last years best picture Oscar nominee Midnight in Paris earned Woody Allen his highest marks from critics and audiences in decades. Allen returns with a picture that is far more typical Woody Allen, the type of film that is simply just another number in his filmography.
Every two or three movies, Allen scores a hit. Match Point was a darker side of his work, while Vicky Cristina Barcelona won Penélope Cruz an Oscar and last, years Midnight in Paris was a critical success. To Rome with Love, while quirky and funny for the first hour, will be remembered as one of those in-between films on his way to another hit.
A traffic cop stares into the camera and says from where he is standing he can see a wide variety of people in Rome those falling in love, walking away from someone, meeting someone for the first time or changing someones life. Jerry (Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis) have flown to Rome to meet their daughters fiancé. The fiancé is fine, but Jerry, who is a retired classical music director, becomes enchanted with the fiances father, who sings in the shower beautifully. Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), are in a nice relationship until Sallys friend Monica (Ellen Page) shows up and completely derails Jacks emotions.
Allen has invented, as usual, some interesting characters that do and say very funny and witty things for about an hour. Then, as some scripts go, these characters lose their purpose. Perhaps he was trying to tell too many stories or perhaps he told the same joke too many times.
Either way, To Rome With Love falls pretty hard in the second and final act, and we forget what a good time we were having up until then.
One of the jokes is what horrible musical ideas Jerry had before he retired. His wife tells him you were ahead of your time. He nervously explains to everyone I was a little bit fast for my generation, which is clearly Allen mocking himself. This is the first time Allen has appeared on screen since Scoop (2006), and he is pretty enjoyable.
In a recent interview, Allen talked about how Gerwig was his new fascination (like Cruz has been and Scarlett Johansson before her). Ironically, Gerwig hardly has any screentime in this film nor has she, to date, done anything impressive with her acting career (see Lola Versus if you dont believe me).
Alec Baldwin and Cruz have a few mildly funny jab lines but are in the film mostly because of their names and clout. What Allen is saying about celebrity, love, retirement and other issues he finds important is all presented in his usual humorous fashion, but he doesnt manage to sustain that energy for the entire length of the film.
Final Thought The funny moments succumb to the uninspired second half.