When in Rome with Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alison Pill, Woody Allen gets bogged down|
by TCha Dunlevy, published on July 19, 2012
After scoring a smash hit with Midnight In Paris and making previous stops in Barcelona and London Woody Allens world tour continues with the entertaining, if not quite magical, To Rome With Love.
Its a star-studded, episodic affair featuring Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Canadian actresses Ellen Page and Alison Pill, as well as Allen himself. But the writer-actor-director loses focus amid all the errant storylines, and, well, some turn out better than others.
As he did with Paris, Allen is out to capture the romance of Rome. And so the film opens with the famous ballad Volare. Several love stories are woven through the movie. Hayley (Pill), a lost tourist, asks Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti) for directions; soon they are wining, dining and shacking up.
Things get complicated when Haleys parents, Jerry (Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis) come to visit. Retired record exec Jerry puts his foot in his mouth more than once; but it goes from bad to worse when he hears Michelangelos mortician father, Giancarlo (tenor Fabio Armiliato), singing in the shower and decides he could be a star. Theres a catch, however: Giancarlo sounds good only with the water running.
Jack (Eisenberg) is an architecture student on a foreign exchange. He meets John (Baldwin), a renowned American architect on vacation in his old stomping ground. When Jack ends up in the middle of a love triangle with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her hot best friend Monica (Page), John tries to steer him away from rash action. This thread provides some of the more amusing situations as Baldwins character stops the action to provide surreal commentary on the predictable faux pas of young lust.
Reality gets blurred further as Leopoldo (Benigni), a mild-mannered office clerk and family man, is spontaneously mobbed on his way to work. Turns out he is suddenly famous, for no good reason at all. Youre famous for being famous, he is told. He gets interviewed on the news about what he had for breakfast; invited to premieres (where the media gushes about his wifes junky cotton print dress); and fawned over by babes everywhere.
Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) are small-town lovebirds in the big city for Antonios job interview. When Milly dashes out to get her hair done before the big meeting, she gets lost and they both run into trouble. Antonio ends up in close quarters with Anna (Cruz), a prostitute; while Milly becomes entwined with a famous actor (Antonio Albanese).
Its all relatively amusing, with a few moments of genuine inspiration. But Allen tries to do too much, and is weighed down by his weaker storylines. The father singing in the shower and the country bumpkin couple both fizzle out; Benignis absurd tale is like an extended comedy sketch. Only the Baldwin subplot has potential for real dramatic depth, but it gets short shrift and remains relatively superficial.
Nonetheless, Allen manages to sprinkle enough pixie dust over his latest offering to provide pleasant diversion on a midsummer night. Where to next?
Rating: 3 out of 5