Sunday, 14 October 2012


Hopscotch Films
Now Showing

Following the success of Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen continues his working vacation in Europe, moving from the City of Lights to the Eternal City, and trading nostalgia for farce in To Rome With Love, with mixed though enjoyable results.

Woody also makes his first on-camera appearance since 2006’s Scoop, as the protagonist in one of four vignettes which all unfold in the city Rome if not in the same time frame or, for that matter, the same universe.

In his story, Woody is Jerry, who with his wife, Phyllis (Judy Davis), has come to Rome to meet the fiance of his daughter, Hayley (Alison Pill), and uncovers a potential opera star in her future father-in-law. The only problem is that Giancarlo (Fabio Armiliato) can only sing when in the shower (and you can guess what that leads to).

The other vignettes involve an American architect student (Jesse Eisenberg) who falls for the visiting actress friend (Ellen Page) of his girlfriend (an under-served Greta Gerwig); a middle class Italian man (Roberto Benigni) who awakens one day to discover he is suddenly a famous celebrity whom the media and Roman public can’t get enough of; and a young newly-wed Italian couple who have come from the country to Rome to work for his uncle.

In Eisenberg’s tale, he is accompanied by another architect (Alec Baldwin), who is either the student’s future self, a figment of his disapproving imagination, or the ghost of all foolish American men past who allow the romance of a foreign capital to fire their libido and cloud their judgement.

In Benigni’s segment, we witness the various stages of fame – sudden, exhilarating, all-consuming, intrusive, resentful – and the pang of regret when that 15 minutes is up and one has to return to their every day life.

While no doubt a nod to the paparazzi of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, one could also view this as a take on Benigni’s own situation: feted by Hollywood following the Oscar love for his feature La Vita E Bella (Life Is Beautiful), which he wrote, directed and won a Best Actor Oscar for, the Italian star has been all but forgotten; chewed up and spat out like yesterday’s pasta.

The fourth vignette is highlighted by the appearance of Penelope Cruz. When Antonio's (Alessandro Tiberi) wife, Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi), becomes lost, a local prostitute, Anna (Cruz), who shows up in their hotel room by mistake, plays the part of his partner to impress his potential employers.

Of course, the joke is that these men of Italian high society all know Anna in a professional capacity. Unlike the other vignettes, which seem to unfold over days and weeks, this one takes place over the course of one afternoon.

Each of these segments have their highs and lows, their fits and starts. It’s not a straight narrative like Midnight In Paris, nor a high concept with pointed message – the gilded perils of living in the past – but bathed in golden sunshine, Rome looks picture postcard perfect, good enough to lure viewers in with the promise of good times.

And there are, just not as many nor any as memorable as those in Midnight In Paris. In that respect, Woody's last two films are (mid)night and day, with only intermittent fun to be had in the Italian sun.

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