Tuesday, 21 August 2012

To Rome With Love (2012)

I'm a Woody Allen fan, in a mild, non-committal sort of way. Luckily (or not) To Rome With Love (2012) is a mild, non-committal sort of movie. It mostly gives the impression that Woody Allen wanted to take a vacation, chose Rome, and as an afterthought, decided to make a movie while he was there.

Rome if you want to.
To Rome With Love anthologizes four stories: provincial newlyweds Milly and Antonio (Alessandra Mastronardi and Alessandro Tiberi) have their small-town naivety shattered while vacationing in Rome (good), a sage old architect (Alec Baldwin) gives a wet-behind-the-ears architectural student (Jesse Eisenberg) romantic advice (better), an ordinary man (Roberto Benigni) wakes up famous (boring), and a retired producer (Woody Allen) discovers an operatic talent (Fabio Armiliato) who only sings in the shower (irritating). If the latter two stories had been cut and the spare time spent focusing on the first two, To Rome With Love would have been the better for it. As it stands, it's a bit like one of those "grab bags" you can sometimes buy from online shops: one or two good things, and the rest is stuff you have no interest in.

If I was to rate each of these stories on its own, I'd give the architects a 4/5; the love triangle is the oldest story in the book, but the young student's disappearing-reappearing mentor is a refreshing conceit. I'd give the newlyweds a 3/5: the coquettish Milly is allowed to surprise us, and Penelope Cruz is amusing as the hooker Antonio forces to impersonate the absent Milly at his important business meeting. I'd give the opera singer 2/5: it's a one-note gag (pardon the pun) strained to the breaking point, but Woody Allen and Judy Davis are at least diverting as bickering retirees. And I'd give Benigni's famous/not-famous switcharoo a 1/5: it's briefly entertaining, but there's really no story here. Even if this is how Allen feels about fame deep down -- that one day you just wake up and the entire world wants to know what you had for breakfast -- he might have been better off venting his frustrations to his shrink than to paying audiences.

Rome around the world.
SCENE STEALER: I'd be a bad Haligonian if I didn't plug Ellen Page, who plays pretentious starlet Monica in the tale of two architects. Casting Page as the selectively heartless Monica was a clever move on Allen's part -- a more traditionally bodacious femme fatale would have consigned the character to cliche, but Page is elfin and sad-eyed and the audience, like her target, doesn't see the danger until it's too late. Even then, we're all like "is she really going to sleep with her best friend's boyfriend on her best friend's couch? Really? Oh, they're going to do it in the car? That's fine, then." Who can stay mad at Ellen Page?

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