Starring: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni and Alison Pill
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
To get my Woody Allen-esque rant out of the way, here is the main thing, which bugged me about To Rome With Love. This film is one big advert for Rome and if you were to consider a city a product, then this is one of the most shamefully product placement driven films of all time. If a big summer blockbuster has even a passing mention to or glimpse of a commercial product, critics (rightfully) chastise it for its commercialism, yet Woody Allen is making entire films glorifying cities because he has been funded in order to do so. I lost count of how many times somebody noted how beautiful Rome was and most unforgivably, the film ends not on a story or character related note but on somebody discussing the magic of Rome and saying, “When you come again” Just as I found the opening montage of Midnight in Paris an advert for a city rather than a film, entire portions of dialogue in this film suffer from the same problem. If you were to cut all the soliloquizing about Rome from this script, you’d probably end up with a short film.
Staying on the critical side of things, two of this film’s four stories didn’t work for me. Roberto Benigni plays a man who becomes famous for no reason. Now while I understand and appreciate the message this storyline is giving regarding fame, it is one that has been done before. It doesn’t help that every scene of his, is a variation on the one that came before. It was unoriginal, repetitive and predictable. Another storyline involves a newlywed couple on their honeymoon who are split up, leaving the husband having to pretend that a prostitute played by Penelope Cruz, is his wife. Now while this storyline was very contrived, it was not the contrivances, which bothered me. I didn’t for one second believe any of the actions taken by any of the characters in that storyline and while it does contain one of the film’s better jokes, as a whole it was unbelievable and annoying.
Ultimately this is a film that is more layered with plot and character than it need to be. Rather than having four stories, Woody Allen would have been better focusing on one or two of them, as none of them are developed to the level that they should, they detract from the pacing of the others and the number of them stretches this film out to a running time that its light stories cannot substantiate. One of the areas where the film hits is when Allen himself is on screen. This is only the second Woody Allen film I have seen (I know…I know) and the first time I have seen him act. Therefore while his, “shtick” in this film may be familiar to those who have followed his career over the years (My excuse for not being versed in his filmography is that I’m seventeen years old and eight year olds who are not yet aspiring film critics aren’t going to pick Annie Hall over Star Wars…even if the Oscars did) I found him to give one of this film’s best performances. His storyline that stars Alison Pill (Maggie from The Newsroom) focuses on his attempts to convince his soon to be son in law’s father to exploit his natural signing voice. This is a storyline that is genuinely amusing; with the film’s best lines and most charming moments. Without spoiling anything, it has one of the film’s few fresh ideas.
However my favourite storyline is the one that involves some of my favourite actors, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page and Alec Baldwin. The character played by Alec Baldwin and his relationship to the character of Jesse Eisenberg is genius and could have formed the basis of an entire movie. It is a relationship that will actually lead to theories and analysis, normally saved for films such as Prometheus rather than lighter, more romantic and comedic fare such as this. The brilliance of it is, that one could apply all the theories I have read and heard about their dynamic to the film at once and they all seem to work concurrently. Every time the film focused on this storyline it had me, every time it was away from this storyline, it suffered as a result. Due to the interruptions caused by the presence of other storylines, even my favourite moments of the film are flawed, as they are not developed to the level that they could or should. I was also disappointed to see Greta Gerwig have such a small, nothing, role, one she most likely would not have accepted if this project didn’t have the name, Woody Allen, behind it.
In its first act the film seems to struggle both on a script and editing level to successfully balance the plate it has laid out for itself, however it eventually grows into its own and something resembling a flow, even if we sadly go for too long without returning to the storyline starring the man himself. Ultimately the biggest flaws of To Rome With Love reside in its conception. The film has too much Rome and two too many storylines for its own good. There are some interesting themes and characters under the surface of this, however they are all drowned by the film’s very design.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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