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'To Rome With Love' four stories set in Rome from Woody Allen

by L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star, published on Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 11:40 pm

Ellen Page (left) and Jesse Eisenberg play Monica and Jack, respectively, in Woody Allen's new film, To Rome With Love. (PHILIPPE ANTONELLO/Sony Pictures Classics)

“To Rome With Love” finds Woody Allen exploring another European city, this time telling four stories set in Rome that involve both Italians and Americans.

While it isn’t in the same league as last year’s “Midnight in Paris,” the movie’s got some charm and laughs, even though, in the end it has little of substance to say.

Here’s a quick look at the four stories:

American tourist Hayley (Alison Pill) falls for communist architect Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti) who she meets asking for directions on the street. Her parents, Jerry (Allen) a retired classical music and opera producer and Phyllis (Judy Davis) fly over to meet Michelangelo and his family. Jerry, who’s afraid of death and still wants to make his mark on the world, discovers that Michelangelo’s mortician father is a spectacular opera singer. But he can only do so in the shower, so Jerry has to figure out a way to get his new protege on stage.

Ordinary clerk Leopoldo (Robert Begnini) becomes an instant celebrity for no apparent reason, finding himself trailed by paparazzi and the object of attention of beautiful women, even though his major pronouncements are about shaving and toast. Leopoldo is baffled by the celebrity, but begins to enjoy the perks, while protesting that he wants the journalists to disappear.

A young couple from a small town come to Rome on their honeymoon. Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi), a nervous, doubting sort, is supposed to meet his rich uncles, then go with them to meet their friends and land a job. His bride Milly (Alessandra Mostranardi) leaves their hotel and promptly gets lost wandering the streets looking for a hair salon. While she’s gone, prostitute Anna (Penelope Cruz) barges into their room and winds up on the bed with Antonio when his uncles and their wives arrive. So the hooker has to impersonate his wife.

American architecture student Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, student Sally (Greta Gerwig) who invites her best friend, sexy actress Monica (Ellen Page) to visit. When she arrives, John (Alec Baldwin), a wizened old architect Jack meets on the street warns him to stay away from the temptress. But even though John, who functions as the voice on Jack’s shoulder, continues to point out the pitfalls, Jack can’t resist.

Unlike many such films, the four plot lines never cross and all the characters remain in their own stories. That makes Allen cut back and forth between the stories, telling each one in three-act fashion and spelling them all out in just more than 90 minutes.

So “To Rome With Love” has to be fast paced -- there’s little lingering, exposition or deep character development to be found. But that’s fine in what is a light comedy that creates laughs from Allen’s script and from some entertaining performances, particularly by Baldwin, Eisenberg and Page, Begnini, Cruz and, surprisingly, Allen himself.

If you’re looking for meaning, “To Rome With Love” can, with a stretch, be seen as a commentary on celebrity for no reason -- see the Kardashians -- and on the wisdom of age in matters of love and appearance. But that’s really reading too much into the picture.

Allen’s just telling some funny tales that work off unexpected juxtapositions of characters and events, some biting dialogue and good performances all set in a beautifully photographed, romantic Rome.

Grade: B

Source: journalstar.com