To Rome With Love (2012)
September 21, 2012 1 Comment
Arriving in Rome with his wife (Judy Davis) to meet their daughter’s Italian fiancée, Jerry (Woody Allen) discovers the young man’s father to be a talented but oblivious Opera singer. Across town, newlyweds Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) are separated when the latter becomes lost wandering the streets in search of a hairdresser. As Antonio is mistaken for someone else by a pre-paid prostitute (Penélope Cruz), his wife stumbles onto a movie set and into the arms of her favourite — married — actor. The media, however, are too caught up with overnight sensation Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) to notice. Meanwhile, John (Alec Baldwin) meets Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and Sally (Greta Gerwig) while visiting his old neighbourhood, and accompanies them both to the airport to pick up Sally’s friend Monica (Ellen Page), a struggling actress.
His first film since 2011′s Academy Award nominated Midnight In Paris, To Rome With Love had more to live up to than is perhaps usual for a 21st Century Woody Allen flick. The next leg of his European tour — most of us buy fridge magnets or send a postcard, Allen dedicates a movie — Rome dispenses with Paris‘ nostalgic magic hour in favour of a more traditional ensemble comedy comprised of isolated vignettes; providing, that is, that you don’t interpret Alec Baldwin’s John as the ghost of vacations past. While a couple of the story’s strands amuse at times, however, for the most part Allen’s latest Wish You Were Here is an airy, tiresome and somewhat jetlagged affair. At this point, Woody, we just want to go home.
Opening with an awkward introduction courtesy of a local traffic warden, To Rome With Love splits our attention — and, it has to be said, our patience — between a series of inexplicable characters, unlikely encounters and surrealist situations as its director flits haphazardly between themes of celebrity, retirement and “Ozymandian melancholy”. Unsurprisingly, Allen by this point writes himself rather well, and his verbal sparring matches with psychiatrist wife Judy Davis are among the film’s few pleasures, as he schemes to have his daughter’s boyfriend’s father perform opera on stage whilst showering. This prizing of reputation and success gels well with other subplots which see Parenti baffled by his 15 minutes of fame and Mastronardi seduced by her favourite actor. The rest, however, is a confused mess.
With the conveniences and misunderstandings piling up as Cruz’ hooker happens upon a young businessman’s hotel room, Heyley (Alison Pill) asks the future love of her life for directions and music producer Jerry discovers an unsuspecting tenor, it is perhaps surprising that the film asks — nigh demands — another, even bigger suspension of disbelief before it’s done. While there are a number of explanations for Alec Baldwin’s character doing the rounds online (not all of them involving a daydreaming Liz Lemon), the only one that holds any water at all is that it genuinely doesn’t make any sense. Sporadically visible to all of the characters he encounters, John is somehow able to appear at random and commune with each in turn without anyone else overhearing his predictive insights. It’s not even like he’s trying to save a likeable marriage — Eisenberg and Gerwig are nothing short of insufferable throughout.
Ostensibly a farce, To Rome With Love is certainly farcicle as it makes yet another mockery of Woody Allen’s obvious talents. Nobody is cast against type, resulting in a-star studded travelogue that might as well be retitled To Rome With Actors, playing havoc with the director’s statements on celebrity. While the city itself certainly looks the part, the rest is an utter shambles, the independent vignettes failing almost completely to complement each other or add up to an engaging whole. The stories don’t even seem to be developing at the same time; either that or poor Milly was left wandering the streets of Rome for days.