Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flick of the Day: To Rome With Love

Of all the directors and actors to feature on the Daily Flick since its inception, Woody Allen has featured more than most, with no fewer than 5 of his films on show. Over the last few years, his work has largely been a trek through Europe and it has not been without success. London, Barcelona, and Paris have all starred and his latest film, To Rome With Love takes place in the eternal city. While each of the films from Woody's European sojourn have had their moments, it would be difficult to say they are in the same league as some of his earlier work yet average Woody Allen is still a step above many film makers.
As much a collection of disparate stories set against the backdrop of modern Rome as it is a contiguous tale, Allen has crafted his usual concoction of comedy, love and life with this film. There are four distinct tales which do not interact beyond their setting. Allen is Jerry, a retired avant garde opera director visiting the city with his wife played by the brilliant Judy Davis who discovers that his daughter's new father-in-law is a talented vocalist who can only sing in the shower. Roberto Benigni is an average Roman businessman who suddenly becomes inexplicably famous. Meanwhile a young Italian couple Antonio and Milly arrive in the city on their honeymoon and through a series of bizarre events find Penelope Cruz's prostitute pretending to be Antonio's wife in front of his relatives. Finally in perhaps the best story, Alec Baldwin is an American architect who while searching for the street he lived on thirty years previously meets a younger version of himself in the shape of Jesse Eisenberg who is lusting after his girlfriend's flirtatious friend Monica, played by Ellen Page.
While this is nowhere near classic era Woody Allen and indeed is a step down from last year's Midnight in Paris, there is still much to enjoy. Allen can still write some great one liners and it is a pleasure to see him on the big screen again as an actor for the first time since 2006's Scoop. As per usual he has assembled a fine cast with Eisenberg, Davis and Cruz getting some of the best lines.
Like Match Point and Midnight in Paris before it, this film doesn't live in a Rome that many Romans will recognise with little of the real world allowed to pollute our screens. No opportunity to film a scene in front of some Roman landmark is missed. While this method suited the storyline of Midnight in Paris which was about how people idealise places and times in their mind, it can at times be jarring here, felling too much like a foreigner's idealised vision of Rome.
An enjoyable if disjointed film then but a funny one at that. The combination of 4 different stories leaves the film lacking in a continuity of tone and without any real centre. Still, it has all the usual charm and humour of Allen to carry it through. 

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