TO ROME WITH LOVE
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and Woody Allen
Jack: What’s so great about suffering?
Monica: There’s just something attractive about a man who is plagued by the perils of existence.
Woody Allen remains true to form with his latest international comedy TO ROME WITH LOVE. And by that I mean that he has followed up a genuine hit with a complete misfire. This is Allen’s pattern after all. On occasion, he gets it just right and many people thought he did just that with last year’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. The Oscar winner for Original Screenplay is not my favourite Allen film by any means, but it did certainly enchant with its whimsical look at Paris and people from a cross-generational perspective. His latest hopes to achieve that same success in Rome, but it is such a disconnected collage of familiar Allen talking points that I don’t see the masses swooning this time around. And sadly, if history continues to repeat itself, we will be in store for a few more Allen misses before another hit.
I’m not really sure where to begin with TO ROME WITH LOVE. Alec Baldwin plays an architect vacationing in his former stomping grounds and Jesse Eisenberg is, what I interpret as, a younger version of himself. Baldwin revisits his past by observing Eisenberg (the character Allen himself said he would have liked to play, y’know, if he was fifty years younger) as he waffles between passion (Ellen Page) and stability (Greta Gerwig). Alison Pill referees between her new fiancé, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), and her parents (Judy Davis and Allen, making his first film appearance since SCOOP, another real winner), as Allen tries to make Antonio’s father (famed tenor, Fabio Armiliato) into a famous opera singer by staging him in shows where he sings in a shower. Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz plays a prostitute who is mistaken for the new wife of a young businessman (Alessandro Tiberi). They parade around the city with his family while his actual wife (Alessandra Mastronardi) remains perpetually lost in Rome. And then, as if the rest of it wasn’t absurd enough, Roberto Benigni plays a nobody who suddenly and inexplicably becomes an overnight sensation, his every move, from breakfast to bedtime, becomes public fascination. As individual parts, they are more or less amusing and occasionally very witty, but as a whole, they never cohesively come together to mean anything substantial.
TO ROME WITH LOVE was originally called, “Nero Fiddled”. The name change itself exposes what I believe to be the only major selling point about this movie. Clearly, the hope was that those who fell in love with Allen in Paris would do the same in Rome, which is, of course, just as picturesque. The reality is that there will certainly be more interest in this film as a result, but once those patrons get there, I doubt very much they will feel the warmth and charm they are expecting. Before long, everyone who celebrated Allen last year after years of denouncing him as over, will probably find themselves wondering if his late in life romp through Paris, was just a fluke.