Woody Allen seems to elicit strong responses from a large majority of cinephiles, either rapid fandom or extreme distaste. The middle ground, of which I am a member, is relatively small. I have always taken each Allen film on its individual merits. Having absolutely loved Midnight in Paris, I eagerly anticipated To Rome With Love, hoping it would continue in that vein. Alas.
Hit the jump my review of To Rome with Love on Blu-ray.
To Rome With Love consists of several non-intersecting vignettes: the newlywed couple, Antonio and Milly (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi), who separated by the labyrinthine streets, end up sleeping with a prostitute (Penélope Cruz) and a burglar (Riccardo Scamarcio); the American architecture student, Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), who falls in love with his girlfriend’s (Greta Gerwig) flighty actress best friend, Monica (Ellen Page), while receiving advise from a famous architect (Alec Baldwin) who magically appears at key moments; the common man, Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), who inexplicably becomes the celebrity of the moment; and the neurotic producer, Jerry (Woody Allen), who believes he can make an opera star out of his daughter’s (Alison Pill) soon to be father-in-law, undertaker Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato), who only sings well in the shower. The one common character across the four storylines is the city of Rome itself.
Intended as an ode to the eternal city, To Rome With Love revolves around themes of celebrity and accomplishment. The film, however, lacks the charm, creativity and playfulness that made Midnight in Paris such a delight. In recent years Allen’s best films have often been the ones in which he himself does not a play role. To Rome is no exception. While that in itself may or may not be a coincidence, Woody–in his typical neurotic onscreen persona–feels out of place and forced. The stories themselves vary from the uninspired (Leopoldo’s) to the done before (Jack and Monica) to those that with further development have the potential to be something more (Antonio and Milly, Jerry and Giancarlo).
The film is not without its merits. The cinematography and production design capture some of the beauty of Rome. There are moments which are truly funny, such as when Jerry’s solution to make Giancarlo a professional singer is to place him on stage in an actual shower and when the burglar, in the midst of his holdup, saves movie star Luca Salta’s (Antonio Albanese) marriage by pretending he is the one about to sleep with Milly (thus eventually leading the two of them to do so).
Picture and sound on this Blu-ray are decent but not overwhelming. Special features likewise are slim, consisting of the fairly interesting “Con Amore: A Passion for Rome”, a combination making-of / background featurette that is a small step above the majority of such segments…and nothing else (well, there is the theatrical trailer, if that is even worth calling a special feature these days).
In summation, To Rome With Love is probably a film best left to Woody Allen aficionados. It’s not his worst…but it by no means is going to wow anybody either.