To Rome With Love
Allen’s best work in the past decade has tended to focus the formerly New York-centric filmmaker’s visual focus on a new city, be it London (Match Point, the wildly misunderstood and much under-seen Cassandra’s Dream), Paris (Midnight in Paris), or Barcelona (Vicky Cristina Barcelona). With To Rome with Love, he continues his international experiment to lesser results by using the city to tell a scattered group of magical realist vignettes that probably are the result of tossed-off or incomplete ideas. At his worst, Allen can make a truly befuddling disaster of a film, and this time around he’s done better, but it’s only that second tier of Allen films that seems like he made it just because he could.
Allen himself features in one of the film’s four parallel stories, none related very well thematically or otherwise. Though his story, where he plays an opera director meeting his daughter’s fiancé, is the film’s funniest and most inspired. Perhaps seeing Allen onscreen again is the entire show since his comedic talents brighten up every scene he’s in. On the other hand, the young actors Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page, so respectively great in other work recently, seem miscast as, well, Allen types.
Roberto Benigni’s whole Roberto Benigni thing isn’t nearly as irritating as his endless, one-joke subplot about an office worker who suddenly becomes an overnight celebrity. Somewhere in between is the story of Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi as newlyweds trying to find each other – the story itself is a forgettable Allen-lite bit about sexual discoveries, but the arrival of Penelope Cruz as a local prostitute raises the material.
Though Allen claims to be hard at work on his next film, it wouldn’t have surprised me if To Rome with Love was his last film. It’s not a particularly good Allen film; it’s not even a particularly funny one, but it’s also not a particularly bad or unfunny one. It is curiously lacking in ambition, though, and for such a prolific filmmaker, this may be the first time it seems like he’s just made a movie to pass the time. One could always do worse than pass the time with Woody Allen, at the very least.