With Age Comes Exhaustion

12 Jul

Rome is a city of stories, we’re told early on in Woody Allen’s new movie To Rome with Love.

Sure enough, from Gladiator to Roman Holiday and beyond, Rome has been the setting for some pretty memorable tales.

Unfortunately, while I generally love Woody Allen’s work, the stories he’s telling in this film aren’t going to be remembered for very long.

The film seems confused, it’s oddly cast, it’s too long, and basically, it’s just not one of Woody’s best.

Take the story involving John (Alec Baldwin). In it, he’s looking back on the year he spent living in Rome when he was younger. And then, in a bit of Midnight in Paris–style magic, John runs into Jack (Jesse Eisenberg, from The Social Network) on the street. Jack is actually John’s younger self — which means that in his early 20s, instead of being a strong, Irish type, John was Jewish and neurotic. Huh?

Jack is living in Rome with his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig), who informs Jack that her irresistible, hot friend Monica has just broken up with her boyfriend, and will be coming to visit. And who plays the temptress? Juno herself, Ellen Page. (Nope, I didn’t buy that either.) Suffice it to say, Jack wants to stray — despite having John omnipresent as his conscience telling him to resist.

Then there’s the story involving Roberto Benigni, who plays Leopoldo, a random man who just as randomly discovers one day that he’s famous. Suddenly there are paparazzi following his every move, he’s being interviewed on TV news programs, and he’s attending gala parties and movie premieres, looking quite out of his element

This is Woody making a comment about the media’s ability to make celebrities out of people who don’t have any reason to be famous. Take that, Kardashians! (I’m sure they feel very insulted.)

Penelope Cruz shows up as a prostitute who has the wrong john, but hangs around anyway and spends the afternoon with a newlywed whose wife has gotten lost in the city.

And Woody himself returns to the front of the camera as the father of a girl (Allison Pill, from the HBO series The Newsroom) who has met and fallen in love with a Roman man. In this story, the man’s father has an amazing ability to sing — but only when he’s in the shower. So Woody’s character creates an act, and has the father singing Carmen … while on stage in the shower! Ha!

Through it all, the dialogue feels a bit stilted — people don’t actually talk that way — and because the words don’t sound natural, the performances come off as a bit stiff too. Woody is more concerned here with creating situations and pulling off gags than he is with developing characters, so the film just doesn’t flow like his better works do.

Which is not to say I didn’t laugh, and didn’t enjoy the film. In fact, some of it is quite charming and fun. But all four of these stories … well, given that they don’t ever tie together, Woody could have left one out entirely and made a tighter, better, more satisfying movie.

And it must be said that Rome sure does look great. Like Woody’s films Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona — not to mention his better New York–set ones — he has created a living travel poster that makes you want to go to the city and be a part of your own story. Kudos to cinematographer Darius Khondji, who also worked on Midnight, for his excellent work here.

To Rome with Love may have been intended as Woody Allen’s valentine to the Italian capital, but unfortunately, this is not a lasting romance.

I’m giving the film a B–.

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One Response to “With Age Comes Exhaustion”

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  1. 2012 Was a Masterful Year for the Movies « Martin's Musings - December 21, 2012

    […] To Rome with Love This forgettable film seems confused, it’s oddly cast, it’s too long, and basically, it’s […]

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