Review: To Rome With Love
PLOT: In the magical city of Rome, several lives collide as romance and love seem to blossom. Both travelers and natives find themselves driven to sappy encounters of amore. From shower singing opera stars to self-absorbed actresses, this series of stories play out but never connects to each other. They only seem to exist for those looking for a romance without the luxury of heart and soul. For such a romantic city, you’d think love wouldn’t be so downright ponderous.
There is an immense amount of charm within Woody Allen’s latest TO ROME WITH LOVE when it comes to location. You can’t help but lose yourself in the beauty of the gorgeous locales. It features a star-studded cast in soapy – yet cheerfully obvious – romantic interludes. There is one young man reliving his fling with a wannabe self-absorbed actress while what could be his older self attempts to soften the blow. A young newlywed couple find themselves separated when she goes out to get her hair done only to be lost in the city. Soon, both are tempted by other possible paramours. And strangest of all is a would-be opera singer who can only sing in the shower, thankfully most stages are able to transplant a mobile shower into the production. It’s a shame it all adds up to nothing more than a pretty picture.
As charming as ROME can be, it is also much too long and sadly akin to a super sappy episode of “The Love Boat” – if any of you remember that. The love stories come together like a series of skits with no real connection. The drama is completely downplayed as there is not a serious moment in the entire production. Predictably it all plays out as a showcase for the actors involved. And as good as the actors are, some of the performances feel forced without any honesty or heart. This was especially true for Ellen Page who plays the wannabe actress who has an affair with not so single Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who may or may not be a young Alec Baldwin (who’s characters name is John). Their story is more pretentious than passionate.
Aside from Alec Baldwin’s mid-life crisis themed tale, the other threads include a who’s who of American and European acting talents. The previously mentioned shower singing opera star (played by real life tenor Fabio Armiliato) whose career is pushed by retired opera director Jerry (Woody Allen) is ridiculous. The separated newlyweds include the likable Antonio and Milly (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) who each find themselves involved with another entanglement. It helps that Penelope Cruz adds a bit of flair as a hooker sent to Antonio’s room by mistake. She is terrific as a sexy escort who is mistaken for Milly in the company of Antonio’s relatives. And I must not forget Roberto Benigni, an average joe who inexplicably finds himself an overnight media sensation. The collection of stories is so loosely played out that the impact of each encounter loses all sense of fun along the way especially with nothing holding them together.
Allen does take advantage of Rome and it helps to add a sense of beauty to the dreamy proceedings. It seems as though the director has moved on from MANHATTAN lately and is now experimenting with other cities around the world for inspiration. ROME works best when it focuses on the beauty and the architecture of this stunning city - ironically enough both Eisenberg and Baldwin’s characters are architects, or at least Eisenberg is studying to be. It might have been a more entertaining couple of hours if the two just visited famous sites in this historical setting.
Woody Allen is certainly one of the most talented comedic writer/directors. He has crafted some truly witty and intelligent films about the human condition. Thus it is especially disappointing that TO ROME WITH LOVE finds none of the complexities of some of his earlier work including last year’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. It only features dim characters looking for love with absolutely no hope for growth. This impossibly cheerful feature is lost in translation thanks to its dull comedy, irritatingly happy outlook and misplaced fantasy.