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USA 2011
Directed by
Woody Allen
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
2.5 stars

To Rome With Love

Synopsis: The Eternal City plays host to four unrelated stories.

I am a huge Woody fan, and there is no denying that he gets a wondrous and diverse array of acting talent in his films but let’s simply say that, although there are, as always, some great lines and some great laughs, To Rome With Love is not one of his best

After the obligatory singing of "Volare" as the camera lovingly takes in the sun-drenched, colour-saturated Rome, we get to meet the various protagonists. In a predictable scenario, there is the lost American lovely, Hayley (Alison Pill), asking directions and falling for Italian lawyer Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). When they get serious, this entails the parents. Gerry (Woody Allen) and Phyllis (Judy Davis), coming for a pre-nuptial meeting. Gerry, an ex-opera producer, discovers that Michelangelo’s father has a voice to die for, but can only perform when in the shower. This kooky premise leads to some of the funniest scenes in the film.  Woody, as Gerry, is full of the usual neurotic tics, but he still gets a smile out of me. Davis, in her fifth film with him, is perfect as the acerbic Phyllis and she also has some superbly dry one-liners.

Sally (Greta Gerwig) is living happily with Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), until Sal’s friend, Monica (Ellen Page), comes for a visit. Page is one of my favourites and she is great as the pretentious young actress who knows just enough about everything to be a complete wannabe. The interactions between these three are constantly critiqued in Greek choric style by John (Alec Baldwin), who is a sort of magically surreal figure who meets Jack, goes home for a coffee, then somehow hovers around seen only by the audience.

The tale about the Italian newlyweds meeting the stuffy relatives is for me a weak and self-conscious plot thread. Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) is too simperingly sweet, while husband Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) is too dorky. The saving grace of that story thread is the sultry, exuberant Penelope Cruz as a hooker who comes to the wrong room and shows Antonio a thing or two. Milly, meanwhile, gets herself lost in Rome and shows a different side to her character. And of course in this scenario, we can’t avoid Woody’s familiar fantasy that a gorgeous young girl will fall for an unattractive older guy.

The narrative thread that annoys me most is the one with Roberto Benigni as Leopoldo Pisanello, a Mister Average, boring, schmuck who is turned into an overnight celeb by the paparazzi. The concept is appealing but the point is too laboured. Granted, I always find Benigni infuriating, so that doesn’t help.

Despite my gripes, I remain a staunch Woody fan and thanks to Davis, Page, Cruz, and, of course, glorious Roma, there's still enough to enjoy in this film.




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