Movies: "To Rome with Love" | Arts & Culture
After years of basically ignoring Woody Allen’s annual takes on New York neuroticism, I welcomed him back with last year’s “Midnight in Paris,” hoping that his forays to the warmer climes of Europe had improved his misanthropic outlook. So I was ready to bask in the glow of his latest continental confection, “To Rome with Love.”
Unfortunately, his new movie is godawful.
Basically, this is Allen’s take on those lighthearted Italian comedies of the 1960s and ‘70s, with multiple characters and plot lines usually involving affairs of the heart (or just affairs). So here, against the splendid backdrop of the Eternal City, we have Woody himself and the great Judy Davis, basically wasted as his bickering wife, visiting their daughter (cute Alison Pill, who played Zelda in “Midnight in Paris” and is now in “The Newsroom”) and her Italian fiance, Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti).
Hilarity fails to ensue when Woody’s character convinces Michelangelo’s mortician father to try his hand at performing opera inside an assortment of shower stalls. The lengthy operatic sequences feel like padding.
Now over here, we have Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig as an expat couple, whose cozy relationship is disrupted when her old chum (Ellen Page) comes to visit. Eisenberg spends most of the time getting sage advice from a fantasy figure (Alec Baldwin) in a yawn-inducing reprise of Woody’s 1972 “Play It Again, Sam.”
But wait, there’s more. Enter a young Italian couple (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi), in town to start their married life together. But when she gets lost looking for a hair salon (what, she couldn’t find any in downtown Rome?), he winds up with a hooker (Penelope Cruz) who pretends to be his wife, and she finds herself being seduced by a porky bloke billed as the sexiest actor in Italy.
And here’s the usually insufferable Roberto Benigni, as an ordinary man suddenly thrust into the paparazzi limelight, with dozens of reporters asking him what he eats for breakfast or how he shaves. I take it this is Woody’s reprisal for the media circus that surrounded his lousy love life.
Trouble is, almost none of this is very funny. And to make matters worse, Allen has written some of the lamest exposition ever committed to film. At times, this is like watching a high school play, with characters lined up across the screen, telling us what we can clearly see them doing. And there are not one, but four Woody Allen characters in this movie, each one doing their version of schtick that has become dated and tiresome.
Baldwin delivers his usual Jack Donaghy performance here, but with a frightening red dye job, and the younger actors do their best to handle the clumsy scripts they were given. Only the Italian actors seem to be having a good time here.
There are only a few saving graces. Some performances, including an appealing one from Alessandra Mastronardi along with that of veteran character actor Sergio Solli (“Il Postino”) as Benigni’s wise chauffeur. And there’s some lovely cinematography by Darius Khondji, who also shot “Midnight in Paris.”
“To Rome with Love” is rated R for its supposedly risque humor. I give it an F, and wonder why so many actors are still willing to work with Woody Allen.