Comedy Movies, by Mike Richardson, 28 September 2012

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Penélope Cruz and Jesse Eisenberg

Country: USA

Runtime: 112 min

Release Date:

Language: English

After Midnight in Paris we get To Rome With Love, as the “brand new” (read “same old”) Woody Allen film. Despite the Woodsman’s advancing years, he approaches Rome with all the mawkish enthusiasm of an inexhaustible day-tripper, but the film is just so-so, another example of a once legendary comic talent, making a film for his own benefit first and foremost.

To Rome With Love

To Rome With Love

To Rome With Love is a foursome of tales that make up Woody’s latest addition to a sloppy and lengthy foreign CV, it must be nice to put holiday’s down as a working expense on your tax return. The plot strands look to be lifted from the folder marked “Not Good Enough For a Full Film, OK for a Sketch”. As Allen flits between these stories, I was left wondering why (a man clearly in his 70’s) was bothering to churn out such mediocrity, and why I was bothering with something a million miles (rather than just 35 years) away from Annie Hall.

The four strands of To Rome With Love are a ramble of unnecessary and unrelated skits, and none have a specific connection to Rome. But hey, the Eternal City looks nice, every street is cobbled and festooned with ivy. But if you thought the scenery in To Rome With Love was picture postcard, that’s nothing compared to the Italian characters, who look to have walked off a misguided BBC ‘Allo ‘Allo spin off.

Here’s a quick blast of what you will (almost certainly be missing when you don’t go and see To Rome With Love).

1) Neurotic New York couple, Jerry and Phyllis (Allen and Judy Davis) arrive in Rome to meet their daughter’s fiancé, a dashing Italian lawyer called Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). Jerry, hears Michelangelo’s father (Genovese tenor Fabio Armiliato) singing in the shower and tries to get him on the stage only to realises that the man’s talent disappear outside of the shower cubicle.

2) Penelope Cruz is a whore with a heart of gold, who triggers a facial mix-up when she stumbles into the wrong man’s room, a young newlywed has to persuade Cruz’s call girl to impersonate his new bride. It’s the sort of set up that might just pass with an amateur dramatics director. Still, I’d be a happy 77 year old if I could make Cruz (a woman almost old enough to be his daughter / wife) paint on a red dress and purr (in Italian) “I am here to fulfil your dreams” as Allen does.

3) Roberto Benigni is an ordinary Roman clerk, Leopoldo who becomes inexplicably famous (even having a reporter cover his morning shave “live from the first to the last stroke”), in a satire on the transitory nature of fame celebrity. Hardly a little bit contemporary, just 13 years “hot” on the heels of EdTV.
Finally, thankfully 4) The (ever excellent and always watchable) Ellen Page plays Monica, a devious, duplicitous and oversexual spanner thrown in to the relationship between Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and her (alleged) best friend, Sally (Greta Gerwig), while Alec Baldwin continues his transformation into comedy silver panther, as Jack’s dad.

It’s testament to the golden age of Woody Allen that he can still enlist such an impressive cast, but he’s trying the audience’s patience, and the line “Woody Allen’s best film in ages” is becoming more meaningless with each outing. We’ve seen all of the above before, often from Allen himself.

To Rome With Love Trailer

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