Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Rome With Love has a lot of funny moments, but a minor effort overall

Since I first saw "Midnight in Paris" last summer, I've seen it again at least two more times. It's probably the most watchable Woody Allen film that he's made in recent memory. It makes me wonder if I graded the film a bit too low when I reviewed it. Thing was, I came into it hearing how it was Allen's best film in years and I thought it felt a bit too light. But "To Rome With Love" is true light Woody Allen. Four interspersed stories of characters visiting/living in Rome with love being in the air throughout.

There's Hayley (Allison Pill) who meets a local while visiting Rome in the summer and almost immediately falls for him. Everything goes smoothly for them and they even talk about getting married, but first he must meet her parents (played by Woody Allen and Judy Davis). There's Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who's studying architecture while living in Rome. He happens to bump into a well-known architect (played by Alec Baldwin) and together they very cleverly assess and deconstruct the possible problems Jack might have by allowing his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) to invite her sexy, neurotic, struggling actress of a best friend to stay with them for awhile (played by Ellen Page).

Then there's the two stories centering solely on the Italians that live and/or are visiting Rome. There's Antonio and Milly, newlyweds who are visiting Rome on their honeymoon as well as to introduce Milly to Antonio's parents. And finally, there's the story of Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who becomes a celebrity overnight for literally no reason.

Yes, if To Rome With Love has one thing, it's variety. The way the film is cut, we never stay on a specific story for too long before we cut to another one. Since they're so unrelated, I feel that you eventually come to like one story more than another. The story of the newlyweds on their honeymoon is hilarious with one left turn after the other and Woody Allen makes a welcome return to acting playing the father of Hayley who often comes at odds with Hayley's future in-laws. This is especially true when he discovers that the father sings brilliantly in the shower.

But the other two stories were a bit more uneven. The story concerning Jack and John (Baldwin) and the love triangle Jack is involved with definitely has its moments and I really got a kick out of the way the two of them provide commentary on Jack's inevitable attraction to Monica (Ellen Page). Still, the story itself is rather run-of-the-mill. On the other hand, Leopoldo's unexpected fame may have made for an interesting movie on its own but the story kinda feels out of place in a movie with predominantly romantic themes. While there's initially a lot of laughs as the media and the press asks Leopoldo mundane questions, the story loses its steam by the end.

Overall, Woody Allen offers us a nice glimpse into the city of Rome and it's a very charming movie. There's a lot to the film that makes me believe that Woody Allen  may have a few more Midnight in Parises in him, after all, the main problem with this film is simply that some of the stories are more fun than others. As good and as fun as it can be from time to time, To Rome With Love merely ends up feeling like one long, well-made tourist commercial for the city instead of being a great Woody Allen film in a great European city.

Grade: C+

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