Thursday, August 09, 2012

FILM REVIEW: To Rome With Love

As you know, the Other Half and I had our first visit to Rome, Italy this past May. The fact that we had seen the city firsthand was one of the main reasons I decided to go see To Rome With Love, the latest film written and directed by Woody Allen which is also set in the Eternal City. As with most of Allen's movies, it has a stellar and interesting cast: Alex Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page. Unlike his more recent films like Midnight in Paris, Woody himself also appears in this film.

However unlike To Rome With Love which has a disappointing 44% rating on  Midnight in Paris got near-universal positive reviews (93% on and earned Allen another Academy Award, his 3rd Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in his career.

If you have been to Rome you do have an extra appreciation for the film, similar to people who live in Los Angeles have a different perspective on films which are set in the city (like Speed, Die Hard, Independence Day, The Italian Job and Collateral, just to name a few). Another interesting feature of the film is the presence of several Italian actors unknown to Americans. I suspect that they must be famous in Italy, so perhaps the film would have a special resonance for Italian viewers.

The film's structure is of four stories who don't really intersect with each other, and are of varying interest and quality. The four stories are: a provincial Italian newlywed couple who are visiting the big city of Roma who get intertwined in some bizarre trysts due to some unfortunate circumstances; an American architect meddles in the life of a younger American architect student who is caught in a love triangle involving his longtime girlfriend and her actress best friend who comes to visit her after a bad break-up; the father of an American girl who finds a nice Italian boy she wants to marry tries to promote his daughter's future father in law as an opera star who can only perform when singing in the shower; and an ordinary Italian bureaucrat who suddenly finds himself the most famous man in the country with the attendant breathless celebrity media coverage.

None of the stories are very compelling, and some of them are downright silly. Allen uses unlikely coincidence and even magical events to forward the plot in several of the stories. This is definitely a comedy, unlike his previous Midnight in Paris there are some laugh-out loud moments. The problem is that because of the film's structure, and frankly, the bizarre nature of the situations which leads to some diffident acting, the audience has difficulty connecting with the characters and finding the emotional core of the film.

But for someone who has been to Rome, , or who intends to travel there soon, the film is a delightful travelogue and can be recommended just for that aspect alone.

Title: To Rome With Love.
Director: Woody Allen.
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual references.
Release Date: June 22, 2012.
Viewing Date: July 15, 2012.

Writing: B.
Acting: B.
Visuals: B-.
Impact: B+.

Overall Grade: B (3.0/4.0).

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