7/30/2012 9:01:00 AM MOVIE REVIEW: To Rome with Love seamlessly weaves four stories
Sony Pictures Classics
Jesse Eisenberg (left) and Alec Baldwin in To Rome with Love.
David Kanowsky Kudos Movie Critic, The Movie Man
First, I must say that coming off the high of Woody's Midnight in Paris, it is probably too much to expect another masterpiece so soon.
There is plenty of humor in To Rome with Love and some interesting melodramatic aspects. To Rome with Love is a collection of four stories with no interaction or connection among them. It seems like Woody Allen found four short stories in his files and filmed them together, rather than extend each of them to feature length. The only coherent 'character' in the film is the city of Rome.
John (Alec Baldwin) is an American businessman on vacation with his wife and another couple. John meets a young architecture student, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives in the same building as John did when he was a student. Jack lives with his girlfriend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), and they're happily in love. A close friend of Sally's comes to Rome for an extended visit. She's an aspiring actress, Monica (Ellen Page), and Sally tells Jack that Monica has a sexual magnetism that men find irresistible. And Jack begins to feel it. Meanwhile John is always present as a doppelganger to Jack. Monica and Sally are unaware of John, but he keeps warning Jack about the shallowness of Monica's interest in him.
Alison Pill is Hayley, an American girl visiting Rome and waiting for her parents to join her. Hayley's parents are Phyllis (Judy Davis) and Jerry (Woody Allen). Jerry is a recently retired music director and promoter. Hayley meets a young Italian (Michelangelo) and they end up as a couple. Jerry hears Michelangelo's father singing and is amazed at his outstanding operatic voice. (The role is played by the real opera star, Fabio Armiliato.) But he can only sing well in the shower, so that's how Jerry wants to present him on stage!
Roberto Benigni is Leopold, a clerical employee in a large corporate office. He has a wife and two children. He is notably ordinary. One day he suddenly is barraged with newspaper reporters, paparazzi, television cameras, autograph hounds and dates on televised interview programs. He's a major celebrity but he doesn't know why - and neither do we. He's famous for being famous! (It is probably Woody Allen's swipe at the inanity of television personalities.)
A newlywed Italian couple from a rural area comes to Rome for their honeymoon and for a meeting with his distinguished business family. He has an opportunity for a good job there. The bride, Milly, runs out to get her hair done before she meets the family. She gets hopelessly lost in the city and stumbles onto a filmmaking scene. Many movie stars are there and she immediately draws the attention of her favorite, the very sensual Luca Salta.
She is enchanted and she goes to lunch with him and then to his hotel and so on. Her husband is worried about her long absence. He hears knocking on the door and he is relieved, but it isn't his bride. It's a gorgeous, sexy, seductive prostitute, Anna (Penelope Cruz), who has been hired to provide her services to somebody else. He tries to get rid of her but then his aunts and uncles show up and he decides to pass her off as Milly. She shocks them all with her appearance, skin tight scanty dress and her attitude. Anna can certainly teach the provincial bridegroom a few things about love, and he eventually signs on for the lesson.
This story emulates one of the tales in Boccaccio's The Decameron. In fact the overall tone of To Rome with Love is like that classic 14th century collection of ten people traveling for ten days and each telling a story each night.
The four unrelated stories are interwoven. But with Woody's sure hand as a director the shifts from one to another are seamless, not jarring. All the cast members are uniformly fine in their respective roles. To Rome with Love has a generous share of Woody Allen fantasy, especially in the mystic inner voice that Baldwin as John provides to Eisenberg and hilariously in the scene of the opera Pagliacci performed with a shower stall on stage.
In the vast catalog of Woody Allen films, I rate To Rome with Love above average but not up to his masterworks.
To Rome with Love is showing at the Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.