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To Rome with Love – Amusing, meaningless and mindless

To Rome with Love - Theater Review
Release Date: 06/29/2012 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

'To Rome with Love' is the latest film from Woody Allen, and it’s filled with fluff, overwrought nonsense, and light humor, but has no real substance or point.

The odd thing about a movie is wondering if there is a purpose behind it — something you, as the audience, should be getting out of it. Sometimes it’s that generic “just to be entertained” throwaway, or perhaps just to hopefully induce laughter. In To Rome with Love, the newest movie from Woody Allen, sometimes it seems the point is “Boy, Rome is a beautiful, but nutty place, am I right?”

The movie tells four different, entirely independent, stories, with seemingly no real thematic connection other than the literal city of Rome — except that three are farces, and one is a dramatic farce. One story uses the literal Woody Allen avatar of Woody Allen himself, while another uses Jesse Eisenberg. In the first, young tourist Hayley (Alison Pill) meets and falls in love with Roman local Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti), so we require a “meet the parents,” except that Hayley’s parents are Jerry and Phyllis, played by Woody Allen and Judy Davis, so we get a chance to be hammered over the head with the theme of no longer working equaling death. In what is a somewhat amusing twist, Michelangelo’s father Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) happens to have an amazing singing voice and Jerry is a retired music producer. But Giancarlo is too nervous to perform, so he requires a bizarre trick to sing well. The thematic connection to the next one is the idea of fame and value, but not love (lust, yes).

In another story, we meet Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni), a random boring worker cog who inexplicably becomes ultra famous in Italy, with the paparazzi vastly intrigued with the minutiae of his daily life. This becomes the strongest segments of the movie, telling a cute, weird story about the nebulous nature of fame. In the weakest storyline, newlywed couple Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) have come from distant city Pordenone to advance Antonio’s career and meet with members of his family. But due to a series of comic misunderstandings and coincidences, Antonio accidentally meets a high-class prostitute (Penélope Cruz) and must pretend that she’s his wife. In the meantime, Milly meets famed actor Luca Salta (Antonio Albanese) and in the end, we discover that virginity is the real crime.

Finally, we have the non-literal Woody Allen character, young architect Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) living with his bland, boring girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig). He “meets” older, successful architect John (Alec Baldwin), who then proceeds to play a sort of complicated fourth wall breaking observer/commentator on the plot. Sally’s friend Monica (Ellen Page), a nutty, pretentious actress who’s somehow unbelievably attracted to Jack, but he doesn’t want to break up his current, healthy relationship. This plot is interesting in some ways in that it’s frustrating and darker than the other ones, not the same level of farce, but because of that it seems out of place and thematically inconsistent.

As to be expected, acting is mostly quite good in this movie, with the real iffy performances coming from the young Italian couple. In general, this all seems like well-trod ground for Woody Allen, almost like someone’s doing an homage to his oeuvre. So nothing particularly exciting or interesting, but some amusing parts and vaguely connected thematic concepts.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classic

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