To Rome with Love
Mr. Allen Goes to Rome

The new Woody Allen movie, To Rome with Love, is exactly what its title suggests: a love letter to Rome.  An ensemble piece, the movie tells four different stories.  The stories all take place over a different timeline and never intersect; they are connected only by the fact that all four stories take place in Rome.

Acting for the first time since 2006’s Scoop, Allen plays a reluctantly retired music promoter traveling to Rome to meet his daughter’s Italian fiancé.  While there, he discovers that his future son-in-law’s father has an incredible singing voice.  He is determined to make the man a star, even if it means working around an unusual obstacle that could embarrass the whole family.

Also visiting Rome is a newly married couple hoping to set up a home in the city.  While the groom is waiting for his relatives to arrive and introduce him to some of the key business people in the city, the bride heads out to get her hair done.  Unfortunately, a running joke in the film is that Rome is a very difficult city to navigate.  She gets lost and ends up stumbling across a movie production and meets one of her favorite actors, an egotistical movie star who is not above taking advantage of the naïve affection of a beautiful young fan.  Meanwhile, the groom has his own problems when a prostitute stumbles into his arms, causing mass confusion among him and his relatives.

Roberto Begnini in To Rome With LoveAnother story focuses on a young architect living in Rome with his girlfriend who is studying there.  When her sexually independent actress friend comes to stay, he finds himself immediately drawn to her.  He doesn’t think he can resist, despite the warnings of an older architect who always seems to be around to give him some advice whether he wants it or not.

Finally, there is the story of an average Rome office worker who suddenly and inexplicably finds himself the most popular man in the city.  He’s being interviewed on television, walking down the red carpet, and being pursued at every turn by the paparazzi.  Is fame everything he’d hoped it would be?

Each of the four stories has their moments, but none are especially strong.  It would have been nice for them to overlap at some point, but really the only thing tying the plots together is the location.  It’s like watching four short films, but instead of watching them back to back, we are watching them intercut together.  The office worker turned tabloid darling story was perhaps the best in terms of its theme—fame is fickle and often unexplainable—while the music promoter plotline provided some of the movie’ more amusing moments.

When Allen’s character talks about how much he is struggling with retirement, you can’t help but wonder if Allen is expressing his own feelings about retiring from acting, explaining his return here.  He does well, playing the same character we have seen for decades.  It’s strange, too, because the young architect played by Jesse Eisenberg is essentially the Woody Allen persona as well, so it’s almost too much Woody.  Add to that the fact that you have Roberto Benigni and Alessandro Tiberi essentially playing Italian versions of the same character and there isn’t much separation between all four stories when it comes to their protagonists.

Alec Baldwin is quite amusing as what seems to be Eisenberg’s conscience in physical form.  He just keeps showing up at random points in the Eisenberg story to share some advice.  At times, it felt like he might be an imaginary character, but that theory is thrown out the window when the other characters also speak with him.  In typical Woody Allen fashion, the Baldwin character is ultimately left as something of an enigma and it is one of the film’s more amusing touches.

Although on the whole not the greatest of movies, To Rome with Love does offer up enough fun Woody Allen touches that are sure to delight his fans.

To Rome with Love is rated R for “sexual references.”  Looking back on the movie, it didn’t seem very explicit and it seems like it could have gotten away with a PG-13 rating

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of To Rome with Love.