To Rome With Love (2012)

If you’ve been writing and making one movie every year, you’re faced with a greater challenge after each production. It’s an annual increment of difficulty. You need to create something original and not recycle old jokes, not a clone from your previous works but still imbued with your own style and signature.

A movie a year, that’s what Woody Allen has been doing for over four decades. Hats off to him for his creative energy and motivation. I’m more than willing and ready to overlook the ones that are not so great in his repertoire. For me, his misses are still better than some others’ hits.

And for those who still linger in the Annie Hall/Manhattan trance, I’d say, move on. His recent works may not be as unique and stylish as those in his earlier days, they are still entertaining and funny in their Woody Allen way.

Last year’s Midnight In Paris is an Oscar worthy hit. First you think, then you laugh. This year, Allen brings us To Rome With Love. You can just laugh. It is not as cerebral as Midnight. You don’t get to meet Hemingway or Dali, instead, you see the vignettes of ordinary folks who happen to be living in or visiting Rome.

An interesting film structure here, and in the hands of an auteur, it looks alright to tell four totally unrelated stories at the same time. The plots are interwoven well, albeit the ending, or endings, seem a bit abrupt.

Here they are, simple stories in the hands of a veteran writer/director…

A prominent American architect (Alec Baldwin) revisits Rome where he  studied architecture in his youth. He encounters a young architecture student (Jesse Eisenberg) and is most ready to offer the young man his advice, not on his profession but relationships, as he sees the young man succumb to the lure of his wife’s (Greta Gerwig) best friend (Ellen Page) staying shortly in their home while recuperating from a failed relationship.

It seems in every Woody Allen film, there’s a pseudo-intellectual. This role falls surprisingly on Ellen Page, giving us a fresh view of the young Canadian actress, a departure from Juno, Whip It, and Inception. Jesse Eisenberg is dreamy and sweet, unlike his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. And Alec Baldwin is… Alec Baldwin.

Six years after Scoop, Woody Allen comes back on screen in his own movie as a reluctantly retired opera director. He travels with his wife (Judy Davis) to Rome to meet his daughter’s fiancé and his family. While in their home, he can’t resist the talent he finds as he hears the father sing in the shower. The real-life, acclaimed tenor Fabio Armiliato has many chances to sing in this movie, but in a very different setting. Some hilarious scenes, albeit they look like they are made in the expense of culturally stigmatizing. But I admire that Armiliato is willing to go along with the wacky Woody scenarios.

A third story line is a mistaken identity subplot with a newly-wed couple moving to Rome from a small town. As the wife (Alessandra Mastronardi) steps out of the hotel room to get her hair done, a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) drops in, to the horror of the husband (Alessandro Tiberian). His relatives are just outside the door soon after so the two have to improvise.

The fourth story is very funny and could well be Allen’s commentary on the making of celebrity by paparazzi. An ordinary citizen, well-played by the animated Roberto Benigni (Won Oscar for his role in Life is Beautiful), is turned into a celebrity for no apparent reason. He is chased everywhere by the paparazzi, interviewed on TV, asked the most trivial questions like what he has for breakfast, shaver or razor, boxer or brief… Uncanny parallels of what social media make of us, everyone can be readily exposed, everyone can be a celebrity if only one has enough followers. The simple lesson here is, they can drop you as quickly as they pick you up. Unfollow by just a click.

A breezy summer treat. The scenes may seem episodic but they are smoothly woven. Again here, the actors are the major assets, especially when you need to improvise as some scenes look like. Every character likable, and the overall effect enjoyable. Not epic but still an entertaining piece of Allen humor. After all, you don’t churn out an epic every year.

~ ~ ~ Ripples


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

27 thoughts on “To Rome With Love (2012)”

  1. What a terrific cast! It does sound delightful — right now I need all the fluffy fun I can get, and Woody is a favorite, so that makes a lot of sense. I’ve been in my dark place lately (hence, slow visits) and I need a little light.

    I have so much to catch up on with you. Will perhaps try for a bit right now and sneak it in during the day! The night just isn’t working!


  2. I love Woody Allen. I was in film school and studied him for an entire summer! Wasn’t work at all. Not to me. I love the Annie Hall stuff but my fave is Manhattan Murder Mystery. Such a fun movie.


    1. Ti,

      That’s what I like to do… study Woody Allen for an entire summer. But of course, as he says in this movie: “Don’t try to psychoanalyze me… thousands have tried and failed.” All the more fun to do just that. 😉


  3. I knew it wouldn’t be Midnight in Paris, but I still was disappointed in Rome. There were some great parts, though. Penelope Cruz was hysterical, and Benigni was fantastic, but Eisenberg and Page – the characters and the acting – drove me up the wall. The opera story was very funny, especially for opera lovers who caught the inside opera jokes, yet I think it was accessible if you weren’t an opera aficionado. I wonder, if the architect love story had been omitted, would I still have thought that the whole thing was 4 skits, not enough to make a movie? Still, I adore Allen and will keep going to his movies.


      1. Anne,

        That’s ok… all fixed. If you had not mentioned it, I wouldn’t have noticed. Anyway, about Eisenberg and Page, I think it’s a good try. WA needs some young blood in his movies, these are good choices to try out. Eisenberg is fine, I think he can make a great choice as a younger Owen Wilson. Page may have been cast against type, but, it’s a nice change from some of these familiar faces in WA’s movies.

        About the four disjointed stories, only a veteran auteur like Woody can get away with it. 😉


  4. I still need to see Midnight in Paris, which is the next Woody Allen movie I’ll see (who knows when, though!). I would like to catch this one as well at some point also. It sounds like a lot of fun.


  5. That last story about the paparazzi-made man made me smile — how fleeting is that fame and, as you noted, fickle! I enjoyed your review very much since I probably won’t get around to seeing the film.


    1. A precautionary tale for WA himself? But of course, his fame is long established. Considering he’d never gone to the Oscars even though he’d won several times, he’s been handling celebrity very well.


  6. I feel about Woody Allen exactly the way you do. He is interesting because he does his own thing, never bending to purely commercial pressure. This reminds me a bit of Radio Days in its episodic structure, which was a movie I loved. I’ll definitely be watching this one when it’s out over here.


    1. litlove,

      I’ve seen most of WA’s movies, but Radio Days I missed. Will check it out now that you mention it’s also episodic, just for comparison. And yes, I think you’ll enjoy this one.


  7. Oh, I can’t believe this! I’m working on a new post that hinges on a Woody Allen story from real life – and that absolutely has to be connected to one of the vignettes here. I’m newly energized to get cracking and get it written – I’ve been dawdling a bit, caught in the August doldrums mentally as well as physically. Time to get over that!

    The four stories here remind me of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. That series differs, of course, because it’s a matter of telling the same story from four perspectives, but in a sense it’s a single story being told here: the story of changing identity – a matured architect returning to his youth, a retired opera director, a case of mistaken identity and the transformation of an ordinary citizen into a celebrity.

    There’s a thread here – I think I’ll have to see the film to see how it stitches everything together!


    1. Linda,

      Wow… I think Woody Allen would be surprised to hear his movie compared to Alexandria Quartet. Not that I’ve read the book to know the details. Well, this is a light-weight flick even in the repertoire of Woody’s works. But, I think you’ll enjoy it and have some hearty laughs. The thing is, the four stories are not strung together but just interspersed each other. That could have given the loose, breezy, relaxed feel we need from a summer flick.

      It’s probably still showing in theaters in your area. Go for it! 😉


  8. This looks like a fun movie. I have always liked Woody Allen but I haven’t seen all that many of his movies. Mostly because no one else wants to see them! I still need to see Midnight in Paris. Great post.


    1. Care,

      Welcome! Yes, fun it is… short and swift, light and breezy. But if you want something more meaty, I suggest Midnight In Paris. But Rome is a fine dessert.


  9. Okay, I’m hooked.

    First, comes Rome.

    Second, your line that made me laugh — “Alec Baldwin is… Alec Baldwin.”

    Third, the fact that Woody had a part in this latest film.. which I didn’t realize till now. This one, perhaps, is most enticing of all since my father looked a lot like Woody Allen and even shared Woody’s comic persona. That fretful, intellectual but endearingly funny character Woody portrays was my father in real-life.

    I suppose I’ve waited too long to see it on the silver screen. So here’s hoping it translates to television without losing too much…


    1. Janell,

      Maybe a long wait for it to go on TV. But maybe Netflix, or the library when the DVD comes out. I’m sure you’l enjoy it. Just for the laughs and fun. Don’t take it too seriously.


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