To Rome with Love (2012)
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Penélope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Davis, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig.
Plot: The lives of some visitors and residents of Rome and the romances, adventures and predicaments they get into.
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Rating: PG13 for some sexual references.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“If something is too good to be true, you can bet it's not.”
Am I one of a few who feels that To Rome with Love is a more engaging film than his previous Oscar-winning picture, Midnight in Paris (2011)? Yes, you have heard it right. Despite receiving mixed reviews that have been an all too common indicator of the state of Allen's films in the last decade or so, To Rome with Love is surprisingly good and enjoyable. The bonus, of course, is to see the respected auteur going back in front of the camera again, to satisfying aplomb, if I may add.
Allen joins an ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, and many more in this love letter to Rome. Allen's screenplay is as sharp (and neurotic) as ever, even as seasoned fans of the writer-director find it more of the same. But same is always good. I mean the day Allen decides to do something different, well not the kind of 'different' that defined Match Point (2005), but something out of character, he ceases to be Woody Allen.
There is no real plot in To Rome with Love, just a loose intercutting of four major threads that run their courses, with no definite closure. The film is character-driven, and the characters are given life through the myriad of interactions, some neurotic, some pseudo-neurotic, others plainly farcical - but all designed in such a way as to reflect the idiosyncrasies of Italian culture, and the 'American' reaction to it, however humorous or impolite it seems.
To Rome with Love has a couple of flaws. Its running length is atypical of Allen's usual fare, running close to two hours. Some of the scenes are indeed repetitive, as if Allen is trying to hammer home a point, but what point? Speaking of point, it would have been more focused to see less of Baldwin's character, because he is simply, well, pointlessly redundant, acting as Eisenberg's irritating conscience of sorts. It is intriguing at first, but grows weary after a short while.
To Rome with Love is still a fun picture, perhaps more fun than any Allen film in recent memory. It may not be as polished and creative as Midnight in Paris, or as scathingly hilarious as some of his greatest works, but when you see Allen feeling confident to appear on screen after quite some time, it goes to show how delightful this film can promise to be.
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