DIR: Woody Allen WRI: Woody Allen PRO: Faruk Alatan, Letty Aronson,
Giampaolo Letta, Stephen Tenenbaum DOP: Darius Khondji ED: Elise
DuRant DES: Anne Seibel Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Penelope
Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Greta Gerwig
Acclaimed as one of the great New York filmmakers, Woody Allen has
made a habit of searching outside his native city for inspiration in
recent years. Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream and You Will Meet
a Tall Dark Stranger were all filmed in London, and he also ventured
to some of Europe’s most exotic locales for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
and Midnight in Paris.
His sojourn in the French capital proved to be a fruitful, as not only
was Midnight in Paris a major awards contender (Allen won his fourth
Oscar® for the film’s screenplay), but it was a surprise box-office
hit, raking in upwards of $150 million worldwide.
It is therefore no surprise to see the veteran helmer remaining in
Europe for his latest film, To Rome with Love which, despite lacking
the invention or lasting appeal of Midnight in Paris, is a perfectly
acceptable addition to Allen’s cannon.
Allen himself makes his first appearance since 2006′s Scoop, appearing
in one of four vignettes as a Jerry, a retired opera director who
feels the urge to get back in the saddle when he hears his prospective
brother-in-law (tenor Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower, but has
to think outside the box when he realises that he is not as
accomplished under normal circumstances.
Elsewhere, Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi are young
newlyweds who become separated in their new city, and fall into the
company of a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) and a movie star (Antonio
Albanese) respectively; Life is Beautiful‘s Roberto Benigni is an
ordinary Joe Soap who wakes up one day to discover that he has become
famous for no apparent reason; while the final story (in chronological
terms) finds Alec Baldwin’s famed architect dishing out relationship
advice to young protege Jesse Eisenberg as he struggles to choose
between his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend,
played by Ellen Page.
All of the stories do work quite well on an individual basis, and
there are some familiar Allen traits that are clear for all to see.
The subject of infidelity (which has played a major part in his recent
films) is a common theme throughout, and Baldwin’s inexplicable
appearances during the scenes with Eisenberg and Page brings back fond
memories of the Allen-starring Play it Again, Sam when Humphrey Bogart
was the imaginary mentor for the film’s protagonist.
It is also interesting that he has chosen to give equal share in terms
of screen time to the Italian stars, with Benigni enjoying a welcome
return to mainstream cinema after a 10 year appearance, and bright
young things Tiberi and Mastronardi making for an engaging screen
Overall, the film works better as a series of moments rather than as a
wholly satisfying picture, and there is certainly no danger of To Rome with Love
every challenging films like Manhattan, Annie Hall, Sleeper
or Love and Death as one of his very best.
However, as a comedy, the film does succeed on a number of levels, and
there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way. Allen, despite
giving himself a limited enough role on this occasion, has some
trademark zingers and one-liners that only he could deliver, and
Baldwin is in his prime 30 Rock form throughout, stealing every scene
that he is in with plenty of gusto and no little verve.
For those are expecting Allen to repeat the winning formula that
brought such attention towards Midnight in Paris they will probably be
left disappointed by his latest film, but for those who still hold a
fondness for his ‘early, funny ones’ and are looking for something
that will help to past the time in an agreeable manner (as well as
something with a penchant for absurdity), then they might well find
something to enjoy in To Rome with Love.