To Rome with Love

Roberto Benigni and Woody Allen shooting “To Rome with Love.”

If you want to see a great Woody Allen film get down to Film Forum and see their new 35mm print of “Annie Hall” (1977) .  If you want to see an OK, lightly amusing, but ultimately forced and derivative Woody Allen film, go see “To Rome with Love.”

“Rome” does have its moments.  The film seems as if it has been patched together from various ideas that Allen had lying around.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. The story concerns different people and their adventures and misadventures in Rome.  If the film has a unifying theme it seems to be that almost none  of the characters are happy with where they are in their relationships.  Almost every character seems to be tempted by a potential, new partner.

The movie has some funny lines and one really good sight gag, involving a shower, which Allen makes the mistake of using twice.  The first time it is funny but when he uses it again, later in the film, it loses its effectiveness.  We have already seen it.  A better editorial decision would have been to save the gag for later and cut its earlier introduction.

I give Allen credit for writing a part for someone his age.  In some of his past films the “Woody Allen” character was too young for Allen to still play, causing him to have younger actors play the role and imitate his familiar, iconic, neurotic, New Yorker. Examples include Kenneth Branagh in “Celebrity” (1998) and Owen Wilson in “Midnight in Paris” (2011).  At the same time though Allen seems to be covering his bets in “Rome,” by having two other, younger, “Woody Allen” characters. One of these is Jack, played by Jesse Eisenberg.  Eisenberg plays the same part that he plays in every movie: the neurotic, nebbishy young man who has trouble getting the pretty girl.  He plays the part well, but I challenge anyone to review Eisenberg’s filmography and show me a film where he has not played this role.  The other “Woody Allen” character is Michelango, played by Italian actor Flavio Parenti.  Michelangelo has the unmotivated task of passing off a hooker (played by Penelope Cruz) as his fiancé to his family while his real fiancé gets lost in Rome and has her own adventures and encounters.

The film also includes Alec Baldwin playing John, a well known architect.  John shows up to advise the Eisenberg character on how to handle his feelings for his girlfriend’s sexually provocative, visiting friend Monica (Ellen Page).  John pops up, throughout the movie, in the strangest places.  I was never sure if John was real or imagined.  He is kind of like the ghost of Humphrey Bogart in “Play It Again Sam” (1972), who gives advice to the “Woody Allen” character.  Baldwin, as always, is, well, Alec Balwin, a part he plays with alacrity.

“Rome” is certainly well intentioned.  At the same time though, even in a light, goofy, frothy story I need for there to be convincing motivations for what the characters are doing.  In “Rome,” too often the characters seem to be doing things for the convenience of the script.  I know it’s farce and maybe I should not be looking for convincing character actions, but, then again, that is what sells a film for me.

“To Rome with Love” is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.

To Rome with Love, Director Woody Allen, 2012,

Sony Pictures Classics,  102 minutes, PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 27, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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