For those of you hoping that the great MIDNIGHT IN PARIS signaled some sort of return to form for Woody Allen, you should keep your expectations in check. While enjoyable to watch, TO ROME WITH LOVE is merely a return to the hit-or-miss nature of his rushed annual offerings.
Italy is one of my favorite places on Earth, so I took some enjoyment in just watching a leisurely paced story enfold in some of Rome's more scenic and famous landmarks and vistas. Unfortunately, that only gets you so far and Allen's "Fellini-Light" script can't carry the film the rest of the way. The four separate but simultaneous stories that make up TO ROME WITH LOVE are a weird mix to be sure—a meditative fantasy, a screwball comedy, a silly farce, and a satire on the fickle nature of celebrity. The vignettes include:
- A fantasy-flashback in which Alec Baldwin plays an invisible mentor to a young architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who's love life in Rome, torn between Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page, mirrors his own from 30 years prior.
- A newlywed husband must pretend that prostitute Penelope Cruz is his wife on an outing with his family.
- On a trip to meet his daughter's new Italian in-laws, Woody Allen attempts to turn the father in to an opera star—except he can only sing in the shower.
-Roberto Benigni wakes up one morning to find he's become an overnight celebrity for no reason and discovers the ups and downs of being hounded by the paparazzi
Each of the stories is entertaining enough and the acting is fine across the board, but they all seem half-cooked and rushed. The script feels like a first draft; each tale comes across as completely random with no intertwining elements or thematic connections aside from Rome itself. At the same time, the fantastical style of the material kind of fits the Old World setting, but the fact that you bounce back and forth between each vignette– with some taking place over the course of one day, others weeks—feels clumsy and amateur. I get what Allen was going for here, but nothing really leaves much of an impact.
Con Amore: A Passion for Rome (9:06): Cast and crew discuss the beauty of Rome and the genius of Woody Allen, but no Allen himself—just some lady speaking on his behalf—which is a bit awkward.
TO ROME WITH LOVE is mildly enjoyable because of the romantic setting and the lighthearted stories, but it's clumsy and forgettable as a film. Not one of Woody's best works.
Extra Tidbit: Look out for a cameo by Ornella Muti, who played the seductive Princess Aura in FLASH (Ah-Ahhhhh!) GORDON.