Ah, Woody Allen. The man has been making films for six decades, and while he’s had some classics and some stinkers, I’m of the opinion that even his bad films are good. And To Rome, With Love was not a bad film. It was no Annie Hall or Manhattan, but then, again, he hasn’t made one of those for over thirty years. To Rome, With Love is more of a lesser version of his Academy Award winning 2011 Midnight in Paris.
To Rome, With Love—currently playing at the Darkside Cinema—is composed of four vignettes, with no overlap or connection between them. There’s Penelope Cruz as a prostitute attempting to pretend to be a rich man’s fiancé; there’s Alec Baldwin trying to bestow some wisdom on Jesse Eisenberg, who’s lusting after Ellen Page; there’s Woody Allen himself as a curmudgeonly father/opera director meeting his daughter’s Italian fiancée’s family; and there’s a surprisingly sedate Roberto Benigni as a man unwittingly caught up in the frenzy of reality television.
So a lot of fine actors, and some good dialogue, and some great shots of Rome, but on a whole it left me with the impression that every vignette was an idea that Allen had been toying with for years and finally had a chance to develop, but, once he had the chance, never fully developed them, much less bothered to connect them. The film was kind of schizophrenic—some of it romantic comedy, some of it satire or farce. One of the stories took place in a single day while others occurred over a period of days and weeks. Some of the characters seemed fleshed-out and real—Ellen Page’s shallow seductress, for example—while others were more like predictable sketches, like Benigni’s deer-in-the-headlights reality TV star.
As the love-letter-like title suggests, the one central character was the city of Rome. And, for the record, the ancient city is quite the captivating character: the cinematographer (Darius Khondji) captures the cobbled streets of Rome in a saturated, late summer’s light. It’s a city capable of containing a million such storylines, a million such disparate characters—some of them half-hearted humorous, some of them perfect distillations of Americans abroad. And all of them, in this case, born out of the mind of one of our greatest filmmakers—for this alone To Rome, With Love is worth seeing.
By Nathaniel Brodie
To Rome, With Love (Rated R)
Showtimes at The Darkside Cinema:
Mon.-Thurs. 7.00 pm
Fri. 7.00 pm, 9.00 pm.
Sat. 3.00, 5.00, 7.00, 9.00 pm.
Sun. 3.00, 5.00, 7.00