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"To Rome with Love" is a fantasy film; a comedy about people living out
their fantasies. The great thing about it is that it's subtle enough
that you don't recognize the fantasy element in all of the
relationships until later on in the film. The obvious one is when
native Roman, Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), becomes a celebrity
over night. "It's better to be a celebrity than an unknown." And as
Benigni shows, way funnier too.
It's the type of film where everybody gets to see themselves as famous, or supremely interesting, or a guiding angel, or married to a hooker, or the object of a movie star's affections, or on a romantic rendezvous with a thief, or having the ability to change the world with one simple idea. It will take you to wherever your heart desires. And then you'll realize why it's often advised to think with your brain rather than with your heart.
Half Italian and half English, we follow two relationships involving Romans and two relationships with Americans in Rome. A young, Italian, married couple get separated and the young man finds himself living out every other young man's fantasies while the young woman finds herself living out her own fantasies.
Hayley (Alison Pill), a New Yorker transplanted in Rome, falls in love and gets engaged to a successful Roman lawyer. Her parents (Woody Allen and Judy Davis) make the trek across the ocean to meet their in-laws. But Allen's obsession with death and equating retirement with death causes him to create a national disaster (or success story, depending on how you look at it).
Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) is an American architect living in Rome with his girlfriend. First he meets his architecture idol, John (Alec Baldwin), who sees Jack as the younger version of himself. Or more accurately, Jack sees John as the older version of himself (the joke works better that way). Then Jack meets Monica (Ellen Page) who is his girlfriend's best friend and is the object of all men's fantasies.
Page also gets to play the role of the self-obsessed, pseudo-intellectual commonly referred to as "the pedantic one" in most Woody Allen movies. Other than Allen himself, Eisenberg and Baldwin play a sort of tag-team version of the self-deprecating, neurotic hero, although this time with a touch of confidence.
Confidence is not to be confused with optimism because as funny as "To Rome with Love" is, it also has Allen's usual undertone of pessimism. Death is going to come sooner than you would like, but not soon enough. And even if you do get to live out your heart's fantasies, they may not lead to everything that you hoped for. This film is the comedy version of death and negativity, and can provide you with the simple joys in life.
Although nowhere near Woody Allen's great films like Annie Hall,
Manhattan, Hannah and her Sisters and Midnight in Paris, To Rome with
Love is still a charming, and entertaining film. Some have called the
film, Woody Allen's worst film, and I simply don't agree. (His worse
film is Scoop) The whole cast works nicely and all the performances are
all around great. My favorite being Judy Davis, she stole the show for
I found some of the scenes rushed and haphazardly constructed and some of the dialogue overwritten and under-rehearsed. The film at times, felt very lazy and a bit fake, at times. At 112 Mimutes, To Rome with Love is a good 20 minutes longer than most Woody Allen films, and it shows. The movie was overlong and a bit boring at times. There weren't enough charming and funny scenes to compensate for it's running time. Some scenes should've definitely been cut. Woody Allen's latest effort is flawed, but definitely not a bad film, as most are saying.
As time passes Woody Allen is able to transform himself and his movies.
Don't get me wrong, it is obvious that we are seeing a Woody Allen film
from the initial credits, but he still can surprise us.
We see different stories through out the film. Some show aspects of the Italian lifestyle and culture, presented from a beautiful Rome; that city that Allen wants to present to us, his Rome. But other stories present again the issues that have been important to him, those problems that for centuries have raised for humankind: love, infidelity, death, success, fame, happiness; those issues that Allen simply loves to discuss.
The cast is charming and I want to highlight a sincere Roberto Benigni; Jesse Eisenberg, that resembles perfectly the young Woody Allen; and the beautiful and talented Ellen Page, with a powerful character that makes you impossible not to fall in love with her.
I have the huge bias of been a Woody Allen fan and that is probably why I enjoyed so much this movie. It is thrilling to see him acting again. See all that neurosis again in the big screen. This movie surprises, can be as surreal as Buñuel would be and also as real as Allen is with daily problematics.
While not great Woody Allen it's neither profound, moving nor funny
enough for that title, it is quite enjoyable.
The film is made up of four intercut short stories, that share little other than the fact they're set in Rome. Some have fantasy elements, some are more absurdist, others more straightforward character farce.
But somehow, though they don't make much of a logical grouping, the whole thing is lighthearted and fun enough that it seems grumpy to pick on it.
Sure some jokes fall flat and some ideas seem unfulfilled, but a lot of it is wonderfully acted and cleverly written. And at a time when so many comedies are aimed only at 15 year olds, even 2nd tier Woody, simply telling playfully comic tales, is a welcome sight.
Rome must be one of the most photogenic cities in the world, no matter how you look at it or who is looking. The Rome of Fellini with all its magic corners or Pasolini's Rome with its poetic darkness. Woody Allen's Rome is pure postcard glitter. What a let down. This is Allen's weakest script so far. Seems undecided and downright lazy. The tribute to Fellini's "The White Sheik" verges on theft and the Italian actors delivering their lines in Italian look and sound as participants of a provincial amateur hour. Even Oscar winner Roberto Benigni gives a pale and tired life to a thoroughly underwritten character. Allen himself is very good as is Judy Davis as his wife. But, I wonder what was in the writer/director's mind. I believe that in Allen's filmography from best to worst, To Rome With Love will appear very near the bottom. But, let's not despair, the master is already prepping his next flick.
Woody Allen's seventh postcard from Europe lacks enough postage. It
should be rubber-stamped "Return to Sender." This is undoubtedly the
most disappointing of all his films set in Europe.
Following a lifetime spent channeling New York's neurotic side, creating some of the most memorable roles in modern film history (Annie Hall, Leonard Zelig, Danny Rose, and of course Allen himself), the 76-year-old film legend abruptly departed his familiar Manhattan backdrop in 2004, taking his introspective wit across the Atlantic, initially to London, then Barcelona, followed by Paris, and now Rome.
His latest release To Rome with Love has all the ingredients of yet another tasty Allen stew. But in the end, all we sample is watered-down broth, poorly seasoned, with stale recollections of the spicy flavors that made Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Midnight in Paris so thoroughly original and enjoyable.
To be fair to Allen, he's coming off his biggest commercial success ever, which is a hard act to follow. Since his heyday as a writer-director-star during the 1970s, Allen's films haven't performed particularly well at the box office. But like summer stock theater, they tend to make just enough money to keep Allen atop the list of directors most actors long to work with. For that reason, Allen pretty much gets his pick of the litter as to who he casts in his films, and often writes characters perfectly suited to the typecasting.
Indeed for Allen, the blockbuster 2011 hit Midnight in Paris was tough to match either critically or commercially. But not only does To Rome with Love fall far short, it doesn't even belong on the same continent.
The plot is very familiar territory for fans of Allen's films. Three stories are supposedly entwined, full of quirky characters, ultimately providing audiences with humor, greater understanding, and ultimately-- revelation. That was supposed to be recipe.
Trouble is, this time around none of the stories Allen has penned are particularly interesting or memorable. Predictably, Allen does manage to steal one segment, playing a bored American retiree who is accompanying his wife to Italy. They are scheduled to meet their daughter's soon-to-be husband, and family. As one can imagine, the interaction between Allen and the non-English speaking Italian family has its moments. The story blossoms when Allen unexpectedly discovers the Italian father can sing like Caruso. But the high point of this operatic mini-drama becomes too forced, testing the audience's patience to say nothing of straining credibility.
In the second story, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) plays an American student living in Rome along with his girlfriend. When the girlfriend invites "Monica" to pay a visit, played wonderfully by Ellen Page (Juno), Eisenberg becomes infatuated with the new house guest and the fireworks begin. The always reliable Alec Baldwin, perfectly cast as the debonair know-it-all, oddly provides a voice of reason during Eisenberg's degenerative courtship, hoping to stop his protégé from making a complete fool of himself.
The final story seems both camp and patronizing, cookie-cutting arguably the only Italian actor widely recognizable to American audiences (Roberto Benigni -- Life is Beautiful) as the warm roasting chestnut to provide some wildly-exaggerated depiction of the "average" Italian. This story gets old quick, and drags down what would otherwise be at least a mildly entertaining film.
Italy should be perfect canon fodder for Allen's innumerable idiosyncrasies. A nation of wildly-gesturing people full of passion about everything -- art, soccer, food, whatever -- seems the perfect foil for all of Allen's self-centered New Yorkers. Instead, the opportunity is wasted. The film might as well have been shot in Cleveland.
Without giving away too much, there's no payoff in the end. For audiences expecting to see the combustible explosion during the final climactic scene from Allen's vast cinematic laboratory, we are left wondering why any of this mattered.
And that's the trouble it didn't.
In his masterful 47-year film career, Allen rarely delivers a product that seems so unfinished. It's as though Allen wrote a (somewhat decent) first draft, and then suddenly called in the cameras to start shooting. Allen knows very well that greatness comes through time and repetition.
Like fine wine, this one needed to age a bit. It was served far too early. And like so many bad Chiantis, the tannins were overwhelming to the point of being undrinkable.
"To Rome with Love" is a less successful movie than "Midnight in
Paris", which is a little masterpiece, even though it had a much more
Stories and characters are enjoyable (apart from Benigni, who in the end is less overacting than usual), but the flaw is in the background. Italy, as it is represented, is neither present Italy nor past, probably more similar to the one represented in the movies of the 50s or 60s .
Woody Allen's movie is a sincere tribute to Rome as seen in the history of cinema. However, this 'golden age' portrait, if compared to the present, seems alienating and little plausible: he might as well have done a costume film...
Some highlights are particularly appreciated though: first of all Alec Baldwin's character, then Penelope Cruz's, the "newly-weds story" (which was sufficient by itself to give a shade of Italian Comedy,)and finally the splendid photography. But on the other hand the movie is filled with a sensation of horror vacui that makes it a bit heavy and prolix (which is uncommon in Woody Allen).
It was a pity. Knowing the outstanding results Mr Allen has achieved in portraying human troubles and tragedies, one is left with the curiosity to know how he would have managed to portray (or allude to) the tragicomic current events that Italian reality abundantly offers.
But he would have needed a deeper look, which is hardly possible when one shoots two movies a year. So, instead of a big fresco portrait, the outcome is a nice little postcard.
In Rome, the America tourist Hayley (Alison Pill) meets the local
Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti) on the street and soon they fall in love
with each other. Hayley's parents, the psychiatrist Phyllis (Judy
Davis) and the retired music producer Jerry (Woody Allen), travel to
Rome to meet Michelangelo and his parents. When Jerry listens to
Michelangelo's father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) singing opera in the
shower, he is convinced that he is a talented opera singer. But there
is a problem: Giancarlo can only sing in the shower.
The couple Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) travel to Rome to meet Antonio's relatives that belong to the high society. Milly goes to the hairdresser while Antonio waits for her in the room. Milly gets lost in Rome and the prostitute Anna (Penélope Cruz) mistakenly goes to Antonio's room. Out of the blue, his relatives arrive in the room and they believe Anna is Antonio's wife. Meanwhile the shy Milly meets her favorite actor Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese) and goes to his hotel room "to discuss about movies".
One day, the middle-class clerk Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) becomes a celebrity and is hunted by the paparazzo. A couple of days later, he is forgotten by the media.
The American architect John (Alec Baldwin) travels to Rome with his wife and feels nostalgic since he lived in the city thirty years ago when he was a student. He meets the student of architecture Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who lives on the same street that John had lived, and he invited to drink a coffee at his house. Jack lives with his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig) that invites her best friend Monica (Ellen Page) to stay with them in their house. But soon Jack has a crush on Monica.
"To Rome with Love" is a romantic movie by Woody Allen with four independent stories of love, adultery and dreams in the Eternal City. The most curious is that the stories are not entwined like usually happens in this type of movie.
The story of the caretaker that can only sing operas in the shower is sarcastic, with the typical humor of Woody Allen that performs a neurotic and insecure character.
The story of Antonio and Milly is funny, with the sexy Penélope Cruz performing a prostitute with a perfect Italian.
The story of Leopold is a joke with the present moment of the world, where mediocrity becomes famous without reason only because, for example, she is hot or he is a soccer player.
The story of John is thought provoking, with a mature man returning to his youth trying to fix his own mistakes. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Para Roma, com Amor" ("To Rome with Love")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The opening sequence of this film filled me with hope....Rome, probably my favorite city in the world, seen through the awestruck eyes of Woody Allen....unfortunately, until the equally magnificent closing scene, he doesn't really make Rome an integral part of his stories....of course there are a few token references to the Collosseum and the Vatican, but also a few too many interior shots. Woody himself, at age 77, is still the funniest performer in the film, AND of course he gives himself most of the best lines as well ("He does it for pleasure, not for money" - "Well, there is a lot of pleasure IN money"!). But while his segment is pretty funny, it's also basically one-joke. The segment with the Italian couple moving to the big city begins well and the couple is appealing, but it goes astray when it turns into a story of double infidelity; this could have been handled either as an all-out farce or as a serious drama, but Allen seems, rather disagreeably, to imply that the whole incident was beneficial to the couple! Nevertheless, this segment includes the three loveliest women in the film, the adorable up-and-coming Alessandra Mastronardi, the getting-hotter-every-year Penelope Cruz, and a cameo by the ageless Ornella Muti! (she should have had a bigger part). The segment with the American couple who find their relationship tested by the arrival of the girl's uninhibited best female friend feels mostly artificial and unconvincing - perhaps because Ellen Page never quite succeeds in looking like a strong enough temptation for Jesse Eisenberg to abandon Gret Gerwig. As for the Roberto Benigni segment, it's pointless, unfunny and repetitive. When I saw "Il Mostro" at the theater in the mid-1990s, the audience was roaring with laughter; during 90% of Benigni's scenes in "To Rome With Love" the audience was dead quiet. Overall, a lightweight disappointment from Woody, though not without moments of pleasure for his fans. ** out of 4.
You kinda always know what you'll get with Woody Allen films by this
point, which is that for every work that he does that knocks it out of
the park (Match Point, Midnight in Paris), he'll come back and then...
make a film that just stays as a single or double, to use baseball
terms (i.e. Scoop, and this film). To Rome with Love is another
"Woody's European City Tour" that follows London, Barcelona and of
course Paris, and with Rome he pays tribute by doing one of those
Italian anthology comedies (I haven't seen a lot of them frankly, but
I'm thinking like back in the 60's with Boccaccio 62), and there are
four stories that Woody could also have made individual films. Well,
two would have been potentially amazing if they had the right focus
(one of them, not so much, the time it has here is fine). Let's quickly
Woody himself returns for the first time on screen since Scoop (a little too old to be the romantic lead anymore, aside from, say, married to Judy Davis), and he and his wife go to see their daughter, played by Allison Pill, who is set to get married to Michelangelo. His parents are simple Roman folk, the father a mortician... who is also an amazing opera singer, but the catch is that he can only sing great in the shower (don't we all?) so Woody makes a trick: have him sing in the shower - on STAGE! Alec Baldwin plays a guy who, I think, looks back on his younger self as an impressionable architect (Jesse Eisenberg, very Woody-esque surrogate, but plays his own strengths well as well) who has a new romantic interest in the super-neurotic actress Ellen Page plays (a different turn for her that I had fun watching, though intentionally annoying as a character). An Italian couple are in love and are unfortunately separated and, through wacky misunderstandings, wind up with other partners over the course of one day. And Roberto Benigni is a regular guy chased by the paparazzi. Why? Why not?
Woody juggles between these stories and, the worst I can say about it is, it has an air of a sitcom to it. There's some misunderstandings and usually around fame or love or sex, or all of the above, and it's not too deep. Well, maybe the Baldwin/Eisenberg plot has some poignancy about a Man of the World who looks back on his youthful indiscretion, or would-be one, and there is a lot of humor to be mined. Hell, it's great to see Benigni have fun and be actually funny again in his premise, where he starts to go down deeper in the rabbit hole of fame. And while it's the weakest plot of all with the two Italian lovers split apart, when Penelope Cruz comes on screen for her brief time she's sexy, fun, and intelligent in her acting. Even Woody Allen himself, telling a lot of the brand of old, semi-corny jokes (but ALWAYS with a knowing wit and punchline) is amusing.
But when comedy works, it works, and there's a lot of stuff that worked here for me more than it didn't. Just seeing the old Italian man singing in the shower on stage (and applying/washing off Pagliaci make- up!) is a gag that only the most cynical would turn off on. It's a master filmmaker having fun, and a jazz clarinetist (yeah, I'm going there) noodling around on his instrument in a cinematic sort of way. I think for the summer season, which has passed know, it's a fine way to spend an afternoon or evening, not to mention with a wonderful cast by older-and-young Hollywood players and Italian not-so-well-known folks. Just not in an OMG YOU MUST SEE THIS IT WILL WIN AN Oscar sort of experience.
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