Sunday, July 15, 2012

To Rome With Love

Woody Allen"s To Rome With Love is a notebook full of characters and situations which unite to some degree around the idea of our fleeting lives and almost none of which connect with each other. Allen continues his late-career run of European-set films, but although tourism officials will have nothing to complain about I'm not sure Allen actually has anything to say about the city. Most of the stories could have taken place anywhere and the themes are old hat for Allen. The most Italian segment of To Rome With Love finds Allen as a retired opera director visiting Rome with his wife (Judy Davis, having a ball) to meet the parents of his daughter's (Alison Pill) fiance. The groom's father Giancarlo (tenor Fabio Armiliato) is an unassuming mortician with a gorgeous shower-singing voice who's too nervous to perform on stage. What's does Woody's character do? You guessed it, but we see Giancarlo showering on stage twice and the second time feels unnecessary. To Rome With Love feels unusually padded for a Woody Allen film and some ideas are pushed passed their breaking point. Roberto Benigni is funny as a anonymous office worker hounded by the press for no reason, but again there's too much of this character. I'm always happy to see Penelope Cruz but her scenes as a call girl escorting a meek newlywed (Alessandro Tiberi) around the city slow the movie down. 

The energy in To Rome With Love comes from the young women. Pill's dutiful daughter is a little underused but the strongest strand of the movie features Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig as friends Monica and Sally. Issue-heavy actress Monica arrives to say with Sally and her architect boyfriend Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and soon inserts herself between the couple, and though it isn't hard to see how things will end up the presence of Alec Baldwin as another architect with a connection to Jack makes these scenes more than a story about foolish choices. I wanted more time for this story of a life lived at two points in time, and Allen could probably have fleshed this out into a full script if he was able to give Page's character a little more depth. To Rome With Love could be tighter, but the jokes are funny and it's a pleasure to see Allen energized by Europe and his able cast. Now, can America have him back? 

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