Friday, July 6, 2012
Movie review: To Rome with Love
Woody treads familiar ground in a new locale.
Last year, Woody Allen had another of his many comebacks with Midnight in Paris, a magical return to form that wound up being his highest-grossing movie ever. Expectations were high for his follow-up, what with another Oscar and all.
But as many have come to realize with Woody, you can never place those expectations that high. There’s nothing particularly wrong with To Rome with Love, but it’s so lightweight, it could disappear with a slight breeze.
At least he changes up the structure a little bit. Instead of one meandering story, To Rome with Love tells four separate stories, and doesn’t try to weave them together.
In one vignette, a young married couple travels to the Eternal City on their honeymoon, but they get separated and spend the day with people they find a little more exciting. Here, Woody’s constant theme of marriage-as-a-trap surfaces and that gets really grating. We get it, already.
Another story finds Roberto Benigni, an office drone who suddenly becomes a celebrity. Paparazzi constantly snap his photo. News anchors invite him on their shows to ask him what he ate for breakfast. Women who never gave him the time of day now line up around the block to go to bed with him. Woody’s statement about the fleetingness of fame doesn’t have any teeth, but it’s a delight to see Roberto prancing around again.
Alec Baldwin shows up in the next story as a possible ghost/time traveler/metaphysical adviser. I say that because he meets Jesse Eisenberg and his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) as well as a femme fatale (a miscast Ellen Page), but for most of this bit, he can only be seen and heard by Eisenberg. Baldwin’s a pro, breezing through his lines but he’s not good going toe-to-toe with any part of the trio. They’re all neurotic and timid, and the story brings another one of Woody’s constant themes: that adultery is no big deal. As funny as this segment is, that’s a horrible sentiment.
Finally, we get to the man himself. Woody returns onscreen for the first time since 2006’s Scoop. He plays a retired opera director, known for his avant-garde stagings, though his critics had less kind words. He and his wife (a sassy Judy Davis) are in Rome to meet their daughter’s future in-laws. The father is a mortician (Fabio Armiliato) who sings gorgeously, but only in the shower. Woody books an audition for him, only he freezes with stage fright. So he comes up with a brilliant solution: he’ll stage Pagliacci with a working shower.
This segment is easily the funniest of the four and also the broadest, proving Woody can be at his best when he lets himself get out of the way and just focuses on the jokes.
To Rome with Love won’t resonate the way some of his other films have. It’s just not that kind of movie, but for a summer afternoon, it’s a nice trip.
For showtimes for To Rome with Love, click here.