I rate Woody Allen the king of hit and miss. In his 40+ years as a screenwriter and director he has divided audiences and somehow created both modern classics (Annie Hall and, arguably, Midnight in Paris) and spectacular bombs (Cassandra’s Dream)
Lucky for him, he appears to be spending his later years cavorting around Europe tax-free with three of his last five flicks conveniently set in some of the world’s most famous and beautiful destinations. It’s a tough life writing films that make you travel so extensively…
To Rome With Love sees us exploring the golden sun-drenched Roma in a most enchanting and romantic light. It is a kaleidoscopic comedy taking us on a surreal, and sometimes absurd, journey with several different characters as our guides; an American architect (Alec Baldwin) vividly reliving his youth (Jesse Eisenberg), an average middle-class Roman (Roberto Benigni) thrust into sudden, unexpected fame, a young provincial couple drawn into separate romantic encounters, and a retired, misunderstood opera director (Woody Allen) trying to put a singing mortician on the stage.
It is more characters then the average audience would easily become attached to in the short space of two hours, but a strong and likeable cast of varied individuals carry it off. Each character’s story is interesting thus you accept the flighty nature of the film as it flicks casually between the parallel storylines.
There is a mish-mash of traditional storytelling mixed with surrealism here, with Baldwin’s character constantly popping up unexpectedly in scenes to break the fourth wall in his conscious commentary with Eisenberg. I found these to be the most intriguing parts of the film, though it will undoubtedly unseat some of the more traditional viewers who find it a jarring addition to what is otherwise a simple and conventional (if not a little random) flow of narrative.
Allen should be getting paid by the European Union for his latest romantics series with films set in Spain, France and now Italy; he really knows how to encapsulate the apparent romanticism associated with these destinations. Though a little fantastical in his execution, and perhaps not entirely accurate (yes Woody, I did notice that you conveniently framed your shots so that the McDonalds located at the Spanish Steps in Rome is absent) it succeeds at sweeping you off your feet.
It is a pleasant film with most, but not all, of the comedy hitting the mark. It’s nothing mind-blowing but it is a visually pleasing and a thoroughly enjoyable lazy Sunday afternoon picture.
I rate it 3 stars.