There's no amore in To Rome With Love
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, and Ellen Page. In English and Italian with English subtitles. Rated PG. Opens Friday, July 6, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
There’s no doubting Woody Allen’s affection for Rome, What’s not to love?
But after directing more than 40 films, and coming just after his biggest film ever, the magic just isn’t there for To Rome With Love. Where Midnight in Paris placed intriguing characters in increasingly fraught situations, our Italian adventure gives us unlikable people who do few interesting things.
A connecting subtext attempts to explore false notions of glamour and unearned celebrity, and this is most explicit in segments with Roberto Benigni as a workaday schmo arbitrarily hoisted to the top of paparazzi culture. Elsewhere, a young provincial couple (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) hits Rome but is separated as he’s about to meet influential relatives. He needs a wife, pronto, and Penélope Cruz’s Italian-speaking hooker is the handiest substitute. Meanwhile—although the time frame is confusing—his actual bride wanders onto the set of a period piece shooting in a nearby piazza.
Consequently, the director gets to work extensively with subtitles for the first time and to mingle with classic Italian stars he clearly adores. But Fellini he ain’t. A tired-looking Allen himself appears, as a retired opera producer who discovers an innate talent (trained singer Fabio Armiliato). In fact, the man can only perform perfectly in the shower, leading to some funny stuff. But this is repeated, like most business here, to diminishing returns.
The flattest segment features Jesse Eisenberg as an American architecture student almost ready to swap his sensible girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) for her visiting pal, a “hot” actor played by the woefully miscast Ellen Page. Fortunately, Alec Baldwin is perfect as an invisible muse who arrives to whisper sage advice into the green kid’s ear. But where was he when Woody Allen was designing this colossal mess?
Watch the trailer for To Rome With Love.