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Customer Review

44 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A so-so Woody Allen effort, November 15, 2012
This review is from: To Rome With Love [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Having been to Rome recently, and having always been a fan of Woody Allen, I approached TO ROME WITH LOVE with excitement. I hope Woody was going to continue his winning ways, because he's certainly shown recently that he is quite capable of producing some very good films (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA, MATCH POINT). But, he's also cranked out some pretty lazy stuff too (SCOOP, WHATEVER WORKS).

TO ROME WITH LOVE teeters into the latter category, I'm afraid. It has some amusing moments, and some great shots of Rome...but it has several performances that are downright terrible, thanks primarily to the script.

The film is really 4 films in one. The stories don't intertwine (in fact, they cover different lengths of time, even though scenes are interspersed), and they each have different themes or comedic styles. I'm all for a hodge-podge, but this one doesn't work.

Story one features Woody Allen, Judy Davis (a favorite) and Alison Pil. Allen & Davis are a married couple, travelling to Rome to meet their daughter's fiancé and family. Allen is an opera director (!) known for his unusual approaches to famous pieces. He discovers that his soon-to-be son-in-law's father has a fantastic singing voice. But you know the idea that we all sound good in the shower? That's the problem here...the guy only sings well in the shower. But this does not stop Allen from trying to cash in. The story is actually pretty amusing, and the climactic scenes are quite hilarious. Big laughs from my wife and I. However, Allen did not give Davis great dialogue...which is a shame, because is movies like HUSBANDS AND WIVES, she delivered the most blistering performances of any Allen female character.

Story two stars the often annoying Roberto Benigni. He plays an ordinary office worker who suddenly becomes famous. FOR NO REASON. Abruptly, he is thrust into the limelight, followed day and night by cameras. He (and his befuddled but eagerly accepting wife) are taken to movie premieres. He appears on talk shows. His slightest movement or utterance is reported on. Gorgeous women throw themselves at him. He is a REALITY TV STAR. Just because. Allen is clearly making a commentary here, and many of the individual scenes are funny, but the script is hardly incisive. Benigni is funny (!) and we root for his character...but the tone of this piece is also out of place with the more sit-comish style of the rest.

Story three tells the story of a newlywed couple, who have come to Rome for their honeymoon and to meet the husband's rich extended family. They are "from the country" but look forward to making the move to the family business in the city. The wife leaves the hotel for a quick errand, and becomes hopelessly lost. Meanwhile, the husband has been confused with someone else, and a prostitute ends up at his door (Penelope Cruz, amusing but really just slumming). Circumstance forces Cruz and her reluctant client to pretend to be husband and wife, which leads to some social awkwardness as all the powerful folks in Rome recognize Cruz and are worried she's there to rat them out to their wives. The original wife embarks on adventures of her own. Will the young couple learn something and find each other again? What do you think? This story, while a bit hard to believe (the husband's half seems to take about 3 times as long as the wife's), has the tone of a modern fable and in many ways is the most successful part of the film.

Finally, story four features Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig as students living abroad. They are a happy enough couple, but we're to believe they've already settled into the domestic boredom that Allen thinks all long term couples endure. Into their tranquil setting comes Ellen Page, as Gerwig's best friend. Page plays such an annoying character, she is completely unlikeable throughout (and that's a big thing to say for the usually quite charming and witty actress). Her character spouts literary nonsense all the time and yet is apparently irresistible to men. Eisenberg is smitten almost immediately, and his argues with his conscience almost incessantly. (Said conscience is played by Alec Baldwin...I won't even try to tell you how that happens). This story features the best shots of Rome...but is almost utterly unwatchable. These four fine actors are given such poor dialogue that there is NO help for them. Baldwin's impeccable comic timing does him no good with the words he's forced to say. Gerwig is wan and whiny. Eisenberg is standing in for a younger Woody Allen, and while he can pull off the Allen-esque mannerisms and inflections, it doesn't make WHAT he says any wittier or more believable. And Page, as smart and interesting as she is, just doesn't have what it takes to be this irresistible siren.

So taken as a whole, TO ROME WITH LOVE is an okay Woody Allen film. If you are NOT a fan, do NOT see it. You'll be annoyed beyond belief. If you DO like Allen, I'd say go ahead, but be prepared for mid-level Allen only. I love his desire to jaunt across Europe; I just wish his visits were more consistently delightful.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 22, 2012 10:22:29 PM PST
I am an avid Allen fan, and I agree completely with your review. See it for its occasional good moments, but don't expect much. By the way, Judy Davis was robbed not getting the Oscar for her performance in "Husbands and Wives." I might quibble with your praise of "Match Point" - please read and consider my review.

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 12:40:22 PM PST
J. Alexander says:
a terrible film. Complete waste of my money!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2013 9:04:14 PM PST
Davis was superb in "Husbands and Wives" and your response to "Rome"
has me thinking twice about viewing. Thanks!

Posted on May 27, 2013 11:29:33 PM PDT
Siobhan K. says:
I don't think Baldwin is Eisenberg's conscience but rather Baldwin is Eisenberg 20 or 30 years later. Watch it again and see if you don't agree.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2013 7:46:03 AM PDT
RMurray847 says:
Sharon K...I could go either way. The affect is essentially the same.
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