*** (3 stars)
Even though he is in his late 70s Woody Allen still remains one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers, writing and directing a film almost every year. After the success of last year’s Midnight in Paris, Allen’s highest grossing film as of yet, he has turned his attention to another European capital.
In his latest work To Rome with Love he offers a collage of plot lines revolving around the notions of love, fame, art and infidelity, all a combination of real life and pure coincidence. This film attempts to focus on its characters and incorporate the sights into their stories, rather than follow its tourist protagonist around as he imagines the city of his dreams like in Midnight in Paris.
As a result what we get is a collection of stories, some of them funnier than others. One of the centre plot-lines involves Judy Davis and Woody Allen himself playing a couple flying to Rome to meet their daughter’s fiancé Michelangelo. When they meet their future in-laws, however, Allen’s character discovers that Michelangelo’s father (Fabio Armiliato) is an astonishing tenor, who has never performed in front of an audience. In the meantime, two newlyweds suddenly find themselves separated in the city as the wife gets lost looking for a hairdresser’s. As a result the husband presents Penelope Cruz’s prostitute Anna for his wife at a family meeting. An ordinary man – Leopoldo Pisanello, played by Roberto Benigni – wakes up to discover that he has become incredibly famous for no apparent reason and needs to cope with the consequences of his newly acquired reputation. Finally, Allen still finds a way to convey his admiration for the city of Rome through the story of Jesse Eisenberg’s architect Jack, whose is torn between his love for two very different girls (Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig) and overlooked by his older self (Alec Baldwin).
Bathed in golden light, created by Midnight in Paris’s Darius Khondji, To Rome with Love gives a collection of sweet stories and eccentric characters. Although Allen has managed to sneak his usual commentary on a variety of topics, not all of them will manage to make you laugh. The stories attempt to be original but the characters and their motives are predictable and the dialogue and outcomes of the stories are not as provocative as those in Allen’s previous films. The existential pondering – something characteristic of the director’s films in the past – has been taken to a minimum. Probably the most successful anecdote is the one where Allen plays his usual neurotic persona, talking about opera, death, psychoanalysis and a version of Tosca where the characters were dressed as white mice.
To Rome with Love is enjoyable but as it stumbles on themes already seen in Allen’s previous films it does not develop them further, touching only the mere surface of the core of each of its stories.